Monday, April 30, 2012


When I needed it, there it was.  And it is for this reason that I give thanks for all that I need.

I have needed so much:  (and I begin writing down all the ways I needed people in my life to respond a certain way to me:  I needed him to do this and I needed her to do this.)

But this isn't what I'm talking about.

What I needed was already given, but I wasn't able to receive it.

A glass of cold milk.
Blackberries warmed on the branch.

A moon we see simultaneously.

Barn swallows who won't fly from the nest they made from mud and spit no matter how close you come because under those pointed, black and orange wings:  children.  They don't even have a word for courage.

Wind that tells you stories of mothers hauling babies on their hips while bending low to glean the fields, and you can smell her hair in the breath that rolled hot and dusty over 1000 miles of gold space.

When I dug my hand into the dirt today, I could have mistaken it for sinking my hands into hot water.  The earth held the sun that settled there, attracted to the flat, dark matter that took in this energy only to give it unselfishly, immediately, without hesitation to the seed.  And the seed broke open in that generous transfer and yearned again toward the sun, shooting green arms toward an embrace it recognized as the first warm thing it had known.  I am the Light.

Let the things I need find ample space to be.  Within me.  Within the daily activities of my life.  Within the lives of those God has given me to love.

To receive.  To return.  To receive again until there is nothing left of my name to call me away from this Presence.

Heal my blindness, so I might understand this vision.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nora's Good Works

Nora is learning to tie her own shoes.  This is her first attempt.  I love her solution: the old "just tie a single knot and tuck your laces into your socks" trick.  Brilliant.

Ready to go!  She needed to bring a "farm" animal to preschool.  Of course, she took a T-Rex.  You might not be able to see it here, but her t-shirt has a picture of Rexie, too.  Grandmas.  Is there anything they can't do?

And then she got to work playing.  Run.  Jump.  Swing.  Play in sand.

The other day while we were driving, she said, "You know what, mommy?  I feel really healthy and good."  There is not much more I could ask.

Yesterday she helped me with a lot of work in the garden.  First we dumped soybean mulch onto a tarp (the single most valuable piece of equipment I own) and dragged the piles to the garden.

Once that was done, we loaded the wagon with pepper and eggplant and put them in the ground.

Then she planted carrots and peas in her garden.  I really hope she eats them.  She has not eaten an actual vegetable since 2010.

She took this picture of the things we'd planted.  (Thank you so much, Mom and Mike for helping us make such a  beautiful space to do this work!)

Saturday, April 28, 2012


How is it that I don't speak more to you about love?

I have been avoiding the subject even though it would appear that all these words have grown from that root.  And they have.

But I have avoided the pain of speaking of that other who, I believe, we all lean toward.  And even while I dug the ground, planted the seeds, watered and waited, wasn't it love I was attempting to find there this whole time?

There is the survival.  There is the learning.  There is the being.  And perhaps I have passed through all three of these stages since moving through the first pains of having a life completely torn apart in ways I wouldn't have constructed as a "future."

But it was.

And All Is Gift.

How can I live this fully, when the hammers in the heart (as Rilke says) have sounded both their demolishing ringing and the gentle, purposeful, regular tapping of something being constructed?  I am struck and resonating.  Not so much reconstructed (how does one reconstruct a sound, that invisible song?) because I feel new additions here--ones I know I wouldn't have designed myself.  Because maybe I think I don't deserve it.  But these are killing words that cut this building apart at odd and useless angles.  Leave them be.

And perhaps this is what I am reaching for here:

I have thought I had it under control.  Is it this very sense that I had finally "gotten it right" that meets me here now, placing me in a field I've never seen before?  Watching things end and begin?

In every moment of my life, I have known God's superabundant presence pushing me firmly and gently as one would teach a child to walk, to speak, to share, to love.

All is movement.  Toward the other.  Sheltered by Love's Guide.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Reveals the character's innermost nature.
Prompts the character to act.
Reveals a larger theme.

Weller 201, brightly lit. 

When the last class is done and I drive west playing loud rock music to the wind, I feel vulnerable.  So I turn up the radio even louder.  And it's starting to work.  Sometimes I think I run a thin line between "informational" and "completely crazy" in the classroom.  But I can't let that stop me.  I love them.  And I just don't have many powerpoint lectures in me.  They just don't seem to apply to the moment.

I couldn't say good bye to them, postponing it until they drop off their final projects next week.  And, yes, I did a little break dancing.  Not the kind I used to pull back in 5th grade.  Not even close.  But, I mean, I'd like to see you break dance in front of YOUR class.  

All you kids with the pumped up kicks, I love you.  

The Garden, Waits.

The wind was scheduled to blow tonight  between 50 and 60 miles per hour.  I locked the seedlings in the shed, and the weekend I would have begun planting will most likely be rained out.  But who knows.  Right now, the wind is gentle, and the seeds are still waiting to be unlocked, their secret spelled in courage and chlorophyll.

Google Maps 

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five Parts


And I thought I knew everything about Spring, but a deeper cup of kindness waited, one I hadn't allowed myself to expect.

I hear myself saying to my lit class:  These stories are seeds; our lives are seeds.  And they need the closeness of the earth, the darkness and the weight of soil, the warmth of water, the pressure of the world, the kind of light that blinds.  Pain.  And at last: the breaking open.  All our struggling:

.  The seed that falls among rocks.
.  The one that falls in shallow ground.
.  Among the choking weeds.

But these are gentle words that break the seed open whispering:  Breathe.  Grace.  And arrive home safely.

I meet with them individually, and this one I've watched through his first year.  And I am amazed by the way he has allowed himself to be moved.  To tears.  To laughter.  Shy.  But so willing to hear.  Tonight he read a poem at a poetry slam on campus.  And it stilled the room.  He sat down with tears in his eyes and whispered to me, "Did you hear all those people sniffling?"  He's humble.  And amazed at the moment.   I'll say goodbye to him tomorrow knowing he'll continue in this way.  When I told him he'd taught me so much, he said, almost shocked, "You mean, I taught you something?"  Yes.  You did. 

Last night, when we had worked through the last poem, we didn't stand up to go, holding the space we'd made for a few minutes longer.  Recording it.  This is the season of letting them go.  And I give thanks that this still hurts, still feels like the right thing to do, still flies them on after resting for a moment on this particular windowsill.  I move the memory in my heart around the table:  Rachel, Liz, Jaimie, Stephanie, Takota, Patrick, Heidi, Jacquelyn, Alicia, Allison, Mallory: fly.  And love you. 

Nora wrapping her arms around my legs at preschool.  "I'm not letting you go."  And soon, she won't have to, the summer calling us into rhythms entirely other.

Her rocking on the front stoop.  How she will grow.  How she will grow!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Through Nora's Eyes

I think that this one just looks pretty.

I think this one looks cute.

And I just like this one.

This is actually my favorite toy.  And his name is Rexie.  My Grandma made Rexie.

This is my pillow pet.  His name is Ruff.

That's a craft I made at school.  

This is my mom.  

These are my shoes.

This is a friend of Rexie's.  His name is Steggie.  My grandma made him, too.

This one is what I like because this one has eggs in it, and I like eggs because they are my favorite food.

These are two of my zoobles that I have.

This is ONE of the zoobles I have.

Advice for Kids Who Would Like to Take Pictures:  You should just ask your mom if you can borrow her camera.  Uh, you just have to look around.  You can see, you can look for anything you want and then send it to Nora and Lisa, so we can check it out and make sure that, um, they took it the right way.  Any obstacle you like in your house.  You can take a picture of that.  That's everything.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

They Beds are Ready: Wake the Vegetables

Nora continues to watch from her observation tower for anything out of the ordinary as we finish putting the final two beds together.  

Mike checks to see if the corners are level while I consider the view.  I see Mom with the camera, and I pretend NOT to see Nora in her camouflaged observation tower.   

Henrietta wanted to say hello to Teagan and make sure the cardboard hamster is being fed.

Then Mike put together Nora's own raised bed garden.  We filled it and put seed in today.  Nora said, "Grandpa didn't give up when he was tired.  Not once.  This is how we know he loves us."

Friday, April 20, 2012


Homemade butterfly net.

When I asked Nora how she felt when she couldn't catch a butterfly, this is the face she made.


I've moved all the seedlings into the shed so they might acclimate to their outdoor life, which is now.

Ila's gift of perennial plantings going back fifty years now.  The irises bloom.  

Feathered ferns, another gift from a life that walked before mine.

Using a couple of butter knives, I was able to rig Nora's hammock up in the corner of the fenced area.  She's reading Gravity's Rainbow on the kindle right now.

The rhubarb (Ila, thank you) is up again.  Unfortunately for my addiction to apricot rhubarb jam, I don't think I'll have any apricots this year, the bloom on the tree coming so early, before the bees arrived.  But there will be rhubarb crisp.  And this is plenty.

Flowering chives.  My gift for the next one here.

Working together, we put our broccoli in today.  Transplanting often leaves the seedlings looking hesitant about the new setting, but they soon find the soil beneath them, the sun above. 

Below the chapped earth, onion sprouts.  We had hard rains, and the soil has crusted over.   I'll have to go over much of what has already been tilled to loosen it again, so the green shoot doesn't struggle more than necessary.

And the asparagus continues to grow.  Soon they'll move into their seeding phase, and we'll wait for them another year, and when they arrive, we'll throw another Spring party.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Garden Is Saying

"The garden communicates what it shows to you but you also contribute to the garden some of what you are seeking in terms of your own life, your own state of being.  One reason a garden can speak to you is that it is both its own reality and a manifestation of the interior life of the mind that imagined it in the beginning."  -- Stanley Kunitz

Raised beds:  A desire for defined potential and the full use of all available space to thrive, get closer to other living things, dissolve boundaries and rows so that all can touch.  A dance of cool and warm crops as the human hand wishes to respond rather than enforce something fighting too fiercely with its own environment, wanting to control it rather than nurture (in order to know it on its own terms) and sustain it.

Flowers and Carrots:  Bulldozing woman of purpose, will you not sit still long enough to hear what the flower whispers to the bee, what the carrot confesses to the zinnia?  Beauty has a purpose, too.  You won't waste time noticing it, stubborn list-maker.

Vertical or Growing Up:  The sudden bursting out and up of a thing held too long to the ground, pinned like a wrestler, allowed to tilt greenfacedleaf fully to the sun, tall and made to be taller.  And if I learn to not slouch, ashamed and sky-shy, perhaps I too could be fruitful, could take the full breath of lifting lungs and negotiate the space each one of us was given to move and not to cower.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Good Friends Give you the Things They Say

1.  "Sometimes faced with a wall in our path we look up, gathering its height.  Sometimes we glance left or right, and walk around it instead... When there is difficulty we contemplate the height of the leap.  Never the potential narrowness of the obstacle.  To either side it might open into a garden."

"I'm stealing that."

"It's yours."

2.  She texts to tell me the song she wrote for me is finished.  "Can I come over and hear it?"

"This poor heart was scorched earth and his song was my rain...his voice coming through...I was blinded by sorrow and that big sky...but he sang me through every put me together piece by should know it was your words that helped me find my own...and if he ever comes to claim what I owe him, well, he'll have to take all of me..."

And I'm sitting on her couch after driving the truck from the pool parking lot where I sat grading essays with both windows open and breathing for me.  Our kids are at preschool, and I wasn't expecting to cry like this, to hear this thing she found written in my life before I knew to live it, but there it is.

"So, yeah, I wasn't expecting to cry today."

"Oh, man, I'm sorry."

"Nah, nah.  I'm not afraid.  I'm not scared of this."

3.  Friends, friends...lean in.  Lean in.  We're going to make it.  We can do this. 

"I walked the perimeter asking, 'What is needed?'  And there were answers."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sometimes When You Just Need a Small Reminder

Very sharp bleu cheddar cheese.

Snapping asparagus out of the ground and eating it right then and there after brushing any dirt off onto your jeans, which you'll wash over the weekend and hang on the line, another part of the grand cycle.

The way the pansies lift their faces almost immediately after you water them.

Your daughter's pink flushed cheeks after chasing a butterfly through the mud, over the grid in the garden, over lumber, broken branches, windmill and dandelions--barefoot and openhearted and reaching.

Laughing with a room of poets who allow me to not be a professor while being a professor.

Sinking into the knowledge that it isn't what is taught but what is loved between each of you in the room as you build it and break it apart and lift each other up again stronger for having spilled it.

Stopping in the middle of the dark hallway in the basement where my office is, so I can follow rather than forge ahead.

Makin' copies.

More green whispering trees calls me summer mind and a hammock to hang between two mulberry trees in the orchard near the field, which will be planted in soybean this year.  My favorite because of the way the lightning bugs lift themselves out of the low, green foliage into hesitant dances that are there and then not there and then there again.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Teagan's Hamster Handbooks (Plural)

A few weeks back, our good friend Teagan came to visit.  She has a beautiful eye.  If you'd like to look through it, go here:

After holding Nora's pet hamster Henrietta, Teagan began to wonder out loud if a hamster was something she might want in the future.  Nora had a lot of advice, and we made a cardboard hamster puppet for Teagan to practice feeding--just to make sure she would be responsible enough for the real thing.  I haven't heard how it's going, but I'm hoping the little cardboard hamster head is still alive.  Anyway, Nora has composed a three part guide about hamster care for you, Teagan.  Here it is.  Oh, and be sure to click on the photos, so you can read Nora's comments: