morning birds


warm covers

i open my window

for a moment

the healing of the world

is possible

rain under window

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No Regrets

sunset chairsWe are 85
you and me
resting in chairs
fills up the spaces between us
“what do you wish you’d done more in this life?”
there is
a rest
a centering
a wondering
only simple things:
a wild courage
loving well
While the sun 
drinks up the paling
rays into
the cup of night
I think
Big and Little Dippers, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor
Maybe the only thing in the way of 
Us the fearful
Us the angry
Us the lazy
Us the distracted
Us the timid
In the morning
I totter toward the kitchen
turn on the light over the stove
hold the cheek warmth of the mug 
While pinks and oranges
fill up another
the dove is
winging and singing
in the damp morning air 
And you -
I find you  
assembling lilies, hyacinth
birds of paradise
mums & hydrangea
into bouquets
 grinning from ear
earboy with hydrange
Every day,
we can accept the schrapnel of truth-living
we can trust ourselves into
and the unremarkable
that is to each of us
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Our essential work

Shan, I’m an alcoholic,” my friend said to me about 9am over Skype this morning. She wouldn’t reveal her face, but I left mine showing so she could see me. “I’m so sorry, hon. What has happened the past 3 years?” She talked. I listened.

I  am an alcoholic

Her pain was raw and brittle – even through the slur of the alcohol. At the end of the conversation, among other things, my mind flashed back to the time she spent a Christmas with me because her family wasn’t safe – and when she told me about her years of abuse. I remembered standing next to her when she was married. I heard the echoes of the many conversations we’d shared over the years. And I was overwhelmed with her strength. And so, among other things I told her, “You can do this, but you cannot do it all yourself. It’s going to be tough, but you can let go and let God love you to wellness. You cannot do this alone.”

It’s been a tough week. I also lost a friend.  A beautiful, peaceful soul. As our friendship was forming some years ago, she took me down to the neighborhood she was raised in because she discovered I’d never had a deep-fried pork chop. “Whaaat??” she said, appalled. “Well, we’ll just have to fix that, girl!” deep fried pork chops

And so it went. I took her out for scones and espresso: she took me out for deep-fried pork chops. We talked about the differences between pork chops and scones; growing up in a farming community vs urban Seattle; being white and Presbyterian vs black and Presbyterian. We talked about falling in love, the challenges of parenting, and so many little things that make up the stuff of life.

Some days the world just feels so unrepairable. Like shattered glass: shards flung around the room… no way to reassemble into form or function. Death comes. Long seasons of grief dig under our skin without our consent. We discover that we are not nearly as in control as we imagine we are.

What is our essential work in the world if it is not to be shelter and strength for each other? To remind each other that we are stronger than we feel … to be the place where we can sit comfortably after a long time apart. We are to be each other’s menders. I don’t know about you, but I have had people in my life at critical junctures that sort of massaged my heart til it could beat on it’s own.

I did not tell my friend who died this week that she was a heart mender. So I tell you to help us both remember to say the things that need to be said – And to live fully in our own skins, savoring the beauty of each other. This is our essential work in the world.

heart massage

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for all the things it is or is not
in the margins
in the inch
between your hand and mine
in the slit of breath
that separates our
in the beggar’s creases
of hands
and the missing eye
in her shoe 
in the nibble
at the top of the heart
that begs
to be called, to be
dishes in drying rackLove is 
in the cleft between drying
in the stretch
of road
between here and home
and the triangle of the newborn’s
legs all
into his torso
It is in the inversion of space
sandwiched in my marrow
it’s in the space
love is
Maybe it’s the wine. you say,
the privileges that have kept me brittle
and stuck in my head
but more likely it is the decades
of yearning
I have lived in just a few days
It makes me cry
knowing that love
is something between
held in the vastness of the not
hard as I try to
make it -
and tie it in a box with ribbons
If it were only enough
choices at the “right” time
a person
an age
a passage
It perches
on the edge
of the unknown
and hugs to the skin
and connection
like a wild spring meadow
it is 
spring meadow
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I live my life like this

bow on string
I live my life
skin on skin
bow on strings
hand to your heart
in my own living room
I live my life like this
I live my life
ripping off the bandages
that hide
the wounds 
we’d rather you not see
but must in order to heal
I live my life like this
Prone to tears and laughter
to hibernating in winter
and abandoning in music
and rhyme
and love
I live my life like this
Listening to 3 year-oldslistening to 3 year old
and the creek
and the singsong of your voice 
over coffee
When all is said and done,
I hope you will have found me
swimming into the sea of questions
naked and smiling
and choosing wisely
and also easily
those with whom 
I spoke the truth of me
even before it had congealed 
I want to say
I was the actress
I adapted the script with you
taking care that we would both shine
I want to say
I was unforgiving with the injustice of the world
and unrepentant in mercy
and persistent in prayer
I live like this. I will live like this.
Posted in God, justice, Music, Poetry, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Searching for Clarity

Cherokee park reflectionI wanted to claim the word “clarity” as my word for 2014. I have been doing this the past few years, choosing a word or two to help frame my intentions for the year. So I went for a walk in a 40-degree Louisville blue sky day. It is January 1, 2014.

As I walked, I was trying to think of a word that expressed what I feel I need right now. The word that I kept thinking of was “clarity”. It made perfect sense. There is some cloudiness in my life right now. Cloudiness on how to best care for my family while I live at at a distance; cloudiness in some pieces of my work (it’s that kind of job, one that unfolds over time); cloudiness about how to best take care of myself here in Louisville. Lots of cloudiness. So clarity seemed perfect.

Cherokee park reflection 2But wouldn’t you know. That isn’t the word for me. I was in the groove, feeling the ooh aah of impactfulness of the word when I reached a creek and thought I’d lean over. I took in the picturesque scene with misty eyes and said to the creek, “what can you teach me?” I know it might seem a bit woo woo for some of you, but I have learned many lessons from sunsets, rocks, hawks, coyotes, tree bark, and other inanimate objects. The world is out there ready to teach you if you stop and listen for a while. And what could be a better reinforcement that a beautiful creek?

Anyway, I leaned over the bridge taking in the slow curls of water, the rocks and mud, the reaching branches reaching, the uncanny reflection of trees and clouds in the water. Then a white coffee cup with a black lid interrupted my magical moment. And a long stream of some kind of scrappy plastic hanging from one of the branches. And then I noticed a bunch of pieces of colored crap that was sitting in the bushes and along the bank. Garbage. Junk. I couldn’t see the bottom in some parts. This totally messed with my personal bliss. And I realized something.

There wasn’t going to be the clarity I wanted this year. Not likely. And what I was really asking for was a “plan” to make everything in my untidy brain all tidy again. How? By sorting everything into it’s place so I could move on to the next thing. Sigh. I didn’t really want clarity. I wanted control. And that is the exact opposite of what the spiritual life is about. Spiritual living is about letting go; giving up the illusions of control; and living in better rhythm with your soul.

What I really want and need is a different posture toward my life. I need a posture of opening; of not trying to force squishy things into perfectly measured square boxes. I do that sometimes. It’s like trying to fill up a take-out container with a jelly fish. It may fit, but the poor thing can’t breathe that way – and besides it wasn’t really supposed to be in a take out container in the first place.

So this is my first word for the year: open. I am thinking of it as an action verb. Open heart. Open hands. Open mind. Open to strangers. Open to God. Open to what other people (and things) have to teach me. There is a discernment piece that fits with this word for me. It’s not getting rid of me or of all boundaries. It is inviting others into a place that is mine and allowing them to affect and change how I am in the world. It is receiving in a way that celebrates and honors other’s experience in the world. It is a posture of arms spread open in love to the other.

I hope you live with intention too. I’d love to hear from you about your intent/hope/prayer for the year.

Oh, I did choose a second word. It is ZESTY! But that is for another blog post. Have a blessed 2014.

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Birthing is about Christmas

birthing is about Christmas
it is scarlet blood and vanilla-sweet new born scent
it is befriending the messiness we cannot explain
and holding the myths and mysteries of belonging
like a sparrow in our hands
with gratitude and awe
birthing is about Christmas
it is doubt and chaos flinging itself into unexpected re-order
it is a revolution of mercy toppling down the misunderstandings of love
it is loss and fulfillment
and waiting, wondering, impatience
to have it done with
Black jesus
birthing is about Christmas
it is milk and broken water
dripping from the body
that only a child can fill
us – here – swimming in wells of our misery 
and heaven-bent on deliverance
birthing is about Christmas
so come to the family, to the everything feast
you who have nothing
come to the family
you who have substituted what really matters with what is
a tree pinning your body…
come to the family
where you are you 
rebel, needy, merciful, longing to be
and – like the dying that birth demands
let it all
for your neighbor
and the birthing
of your soul
you are
a dancer
opening to a brilliant, mysterious star
who is you
who is the child
who is Christmas
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