I Keep Them

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In my heart

If you would look

You’d see a baby who only lived a few minutes after birth

And her brave and hurting mother singing amidst her grief

You’d see

Dear friends in crisis, with no rescue coming

You’d see cold Texans

And worried mothers at the border

And my elderly neighbors with memory loss.

They are there and I keep them.

They are to make free use of my tears;

They have rights to my prayers.

I cannot help, but I keep them

I keep them in my heart.

Like With Cats

Like with cats

Give up the chase

But rather be

The one that offers love

And has made

A pact with self

To never weigh on the scales of the heart

The measure of love received to love given.

There is no transaction here

I love because of love in me

Not to get at the love in you

I know the conquistador

A heart wishes to be

Expanding territory and demanding tributes

Taxing the conquered, occupying, ruling.

I would have you free.

Disinterest is not un-interest

It is interest without transaction

Here is this love, and I go.

So, the cat

She is feral-born and flighty

I pet her and walk away

While others scoop her up

And she stiffens and seeks escape.

This cat

Sleeps at my feet, follows me into the bathroom

Swirls through my legs as I cook

And we each give, you see

Without an equation.

And so, with people,

We cannot chase them

If they need to go, they need to go

And the love we bore

We can let the wind take it

Let it blow layer by layer to them

As we turn and go.

Echo and Rock

Echo and Rock

According to mercy

The children of God

Run, laughing into woods

Echo pursuing

Ducking under branches

Reaching to touch the lips still wet

With breath

That sent it forth

Smashing through

Colliding with the rocks

Who sent it back

In play, in volley

Will you make it back to me again, Echo?

Taunts the ageless rock

Born to wear lichen

Face shearing and calving

As pass thousands of years

But Echo ever visits

And for chief delight

The rock like a batter

Internally winds up

And cracks the faithful Echo

Back to the lips still wet from breath

And waits.

Strands

Strands

It is within this moment, see

All moments reach backward

And squeeze the hand

Of the one that came before

The other hand extended

To pass the baton of Present

To find itself now Past, 

Now bearing story.

So, as I said

It is within this moment

So brief and soon to fade 

To eye’s reach and skin’s touch

That so incongruently

We may, at any point

Ungrasp and unreach

Stretch time-loosed hands up

And pierce eternity 

Prayer, unbound by locks

Of minutes, hours, years

Flies outward, upward

And God inclines His ear

Speak, child

Love comes to meet you

I keep watch over the words

That come out of Time.

You are learning the way Home

The gossamer strands you tie to Me

Follow them when you die

When the dark huddles over you

And eyes no longer serve

Feel for the strands

And follow them out of Time

Bidding Past farewell and 

Say

I’m sorry 

For all the good I didn’t do

And the love I didn’t live

And shake free of Time’s tick and tock

And upend your pockets of numbers.

Gather forgiveness for what the locusts ate

And

In that moment, come.

St. Ia Rides a Leaf, A Review

I had the joy of reading this beautiful little board book by author Melinda Johnson which follows God’s miraculous provision for one of his saints. St. Ia was an Irish Christian who was called to serve as a missionary to the people of England in the 5th or 6th century. Having missed the ship that was sailing there, God provided her a leaf to bear her there.

I am so glad to share this miracle with my youngest kids, as so often we forget the magnificent ways that God is at work; indeed that He does startling things. That gives me a great deal of hope, and I know it will do the same for any kid blessed to have this read to them. What a gift to have the story of an ancient saint brought right into their own little hands, right into their imaginations and hearts with a sturdy book just for them.

A Reader’s Lament

A Reader’s Lament

Popping up, dropping down

And flashing from the margin

Look at me, look at this

Slinging sounds and catching fish

We know you want to read the news

But here darling, an ad for shoes.

I cannot read, I wail and gnash

Your stupid page is all awash

And know you that I always look away?

There’s words in here, you garish whore

Attention hog, cash-drunk bore

Substance lost in keno-blinking-flash.

Away with you, noisome beast

Hoarse hawker, attention leech

I shall not give you the satisfaction

Of commodifying my distraction

With appetite forsworn to sate

Choke on your own click bait.

Let It Die

Let It Die

It is okay to look Loss in the face

And reach out to run your hand along its cheek.

Sometimes it’s good to stare it in the eyes

And whisper “You wound, you always do.”

We drove past the family farm

A place we had no money to buy

And there it goes, to those with pockets deep and full

And I looked at Loss, my companion.

I lecture myself

To smother dreams, to stuff them away

To give no life to them

Do not look, do not hope

Let them die.

There was an 1800’s stone farmhouse on 10.5 acres

Deep windowsills, gleaming wood floors

A kitchen with a professional range

And long stone countertops.

I saw my children running through the woods

Playing in the stream

Curled up by the fireplace at night

I saw the scones lined up on that long counter

Tray after tray going into the oven

For the bed and breakfast guests the next morning.

The dream had curled around my heart

A dream I had no business having

I try you know

To stuff such into a box

But it’s hard to unwrap from my heart

To lift each tendril away when I’d rather embrace

The dream and move into it.

To box instead the sad Loss

And all of its shame and nausea

The way that it says

Nothing will change and you

Are pitiful. Ungrateful. Stupid.

I put the stone house

And all of its loveliness

And the scones, and the woods, and the crackle of the fire

Down into the box and

I let it die.

I don’t understand

And I don’t expect to

And more often than not I

Remember to live into the life I have with joy

But I will not pretend

That loss doesn’t stand beside me

And that my heart isn’t stacked

With boxes of dreams, dying.

Do Delight

Oh, but do

Do delight in home

And wrap a tattered blanket

Over tense shoulders

And run the loose threads

Through your fingers

Remembering the picnic

Blanket caught in a bramble.

The way the trees caught the laughter

And sent it skyward with uplifted boughs.

Virus, virus

But there’s the teapot whistling

And in every book is a door

To worlds unmasked, undistanced

Livable.

Bake that bread that your hands know

Strike light to wick and let

Softer colors throw back the shadows

Do delight, find light, fight.

Sick But How

Little can I bear to be parted

from crisp air’s edge

and light that has first passed

through branches.

The way of the chickadee

(do you know this?)

and the dry scrape of skidding leaves

and the fleeting heat of sun between clouds.

The damp is seeping into my sweatshirt

and a passerby might think

that I’d fallen on my lawn, in trouble

but no, trouble led me to starfish here.

Days in my bed, but at peril to our heating bill

I cracked the window open

I reached my hand out to touch the snowflakes

I wanted the air that is alive.

How many lay abed, wondering

if a contagion from so far away

has nestled within their own bodies

or if it is a domestic invader, a routine bug.

I fill my lungs, testing them, and drink

with an eye towards the window

toward the chickadee handing upside down

from my window pane, inspecting.

Virtually Useless

When the world sort of ground to a stuttered, bewildered stop; when plans were canceled one by one, many scrambled to translate formerly physical events into online experiences.  Online school, church services, counseling, book clubs, science camps, church camps, even our kids’ school field day activities were exclamation-pointed and hyped and promoted enthusiastically; maybe over-enthusiastically, begging to be an exciting alternative in the year of the plague.  It was an extended reach for normalcy, to not lose too much.

75394793_10158937019263352_4697287872719271344_oBut I, odd bird, dove in to the quiet, the natural flow of time un-chopped.  Between cooking for my large brood of children who were ever-present and ever-hungry, I delved into mask making and new handicrafts.  I studied Norwegian, took long walks on local trails, picked berries, played board games, and had good chats with my chickens, parakeet, rabbits, and bees.  I learned to carve spoons, weave rugs, make apple cider vinegar, and currant jam.  I realize, of course, that my experience is a privileged one; not everyone has the opportunity to stay home, nor to enjoy nature at leisure, nor to have a spouse that is supportive and takes over childcare so I can care for my introverted self.  I speak only from my experience, that is all.107813278_10158983117753352_9066970786895427250_n116009563_10159024014663352_876588903092333129_n115821103_10159024520013352_6824405005164446328_o104175277_10158910998598352_7990901495297894568_o115838314_10159017029438352_1263168622830738558_n105289766_10158901948193352_5396233565335013744_oSome felt that the world had gone mad, but for me it felt as though the world was exorcised of the soul-crushing Demons of Hurry, of Hyper-Schedule, of Busy.  Even if it was a forced hard stop, it felt like an opportunity for reflection, meditation, and appreciation of all that we normally speed past.  I barely breathe in our harried culture; I was finally breathing deep.

But for others the lockdown was like prison; deprivation, loss, stress, and some anger.  Okay, a lot of anger.  We experienced some of that, especially navigating online schooling with spotty internet, borrowed devices, and missed Zoom meetings, not to mention the mess of papers, books, cords, uncapped markers, and so on.  That was unpleasant indeed, and I feel no need to spin it otherwise.  No exclamation points necessary.

Once school was finished I felt free; gone were the screens, the frustration, the cords which tripped me.  In my email inbox came the invitations to Virtual This and Virtual That, and I knew beyond a doubt that for me, they were Virtually Futile.  In order to experience in the smallest way an online event required a massive coordination of efforts.  We live in a small, old, three bedroom home, all eight of us, and there is always someone yelling, laughing, screaming, or needing something.  We have a separate studio space that would seem ideal for such, but our wifi doesn’t stretch that far, so our one device (an eight year old laptop with a cracked screen), cannot be of use there.  I tried using my husband’s phone (I do not have one), but it had other issues and I’ve yet to make a Zoom meeting function without panic and sweat.

In order for me to participate in anything I need to be physically there.  My home is too loud and too little equipped with technology, and also…

I need to be where my body is. 105612122_10158923356963352_6139099048337089654_o106903425_10158958428083352_9181716869868902619_n107589414_10158983117828352_7730809835030596938_n109345405_10159005296478352_6912392869239024676_n110046319_10159013716168352_1212632757072360117_o114890932_10159023108563352_1017798727818814836_n115811952_10159023108333352_2971481073923495345_nIn this I do not argue for a return to normal; heaven forbid while the plague still rages!  But I do suggest that we live with loss as gracefully as we can.  That we give thanks for all we can do rather than manufacture virtual substitutes thereof.  That is just my opinion; I give you plenty of room to appreciate online offerings to your heart’s content, but maybe too, leaning into the loss and seeing what gifts it offers when it takes.