Preserve or Enjoy? Thoughts on Physical Objects

time2The creamy white wool blanket I found in the Goodwill bargain bins last week is still airing out on the wash line. It takes a good while for the moth ball smell to fade.  Some dedicated person embroidered their initials on it, and trimmed the edges in blanket stitch, in red.  Every time I go to a thrift store I find hand-embroidered table linens, handkerchiefs, and table runners.  There is pain and beauty in that; beauty in the handiwork and pain in the likelihood that the one who stitched it has passed, their careful, skillful work donated by family who didn’t appreciate it.

There was fine Irish table linen; the tablecloth and eight napkins in fine brocade.  It still had the noble, ornate label on each piece.  It sat among the broken laundry baskets, hangers, shoes, and textbooks like a queen atop a trash heap.  It was over fifty years old, but never once used.  Always saved for the most special occasion?  An occasion that never came?  It reminded me of a character in a  book I read long ago, which I’ve failed to track down.  She lay dying in her bed, and went on and on about her best sheets and linens being in the bureau; that she’d never used them; that they were in some way markers of her worth and good repute.  That to die without fine linen that had never been used would be shameful.

We were given a piece of blue and white china by a great aunt.  She explained that it had always been in her corner cupboard, with the other pieces of the set, never used.  Her mother had kept them in the same way, in another corner cupboard on the farm, only taking them out for a dusting once a year.  Beautiful dishes that never once held food, nor served at a meal.  This was strange to me.

One Christmas I was gifted a collectible Holiday Barbie.  She was magnificent, in a white sparkling ballgown, her blonde hair cascading in perfect curls.  I had asked for her, so earnestly, and there she was!  I went to open the box and was told not to; it was explained that she wouldn’t be worth anything if I took her out and played with her; that she was an investment of sorts.  I stared through the shiny plastic window at a toy I’d never get to play with and was perfectly miserable.

It wasn’t too long until I secretly freed her from her packaging and triumphantly (albeit guiltily) played.  I promptly lost her shoes, her brush, and her hair bore signs of brushing and handling.  My parents felt like it was a loss, but I felt as though it was finally a gain.

Preserve or enjoy?  I tend towards enjoy, I tend towards giving things stories and life.  I favor the Velveteen rabbit’s snags and bare spots, a loved object is more beautiful to me than a perfect one.


On Aging, Being Nearly 40

83243858_10158347247968352_8534731982934900736_nIt’s a battle I’m supposed to be fighting, I gather, from the women’s magazines in the checkout lines.  The enemy roster is long:  wrinkles, cellulite, gray hair, extra weight, saggy skin, drooping eyelids, age spots, untoned muscles.

The weapons of war are proferred up in glossy ads:  botox, implants, hair dye, alpha-hydroxy serums, specialized diets, plastic surgery, teeth bleaching, kickboxing.

But, what if I don’t see a battle at all?  What if I marvel at how the light reflects from the silver strands in my hair?  What if my wrinkles remind me of how many days I’ve spent squinting into the surf, riding waves, and laughing hard, with my whole heart?  What if my soft abs remind me of the many babies who lived within me; of being a house for another soul?

Tuesday I’ll turn 40 and I am terribly excited.  I never expected to live so long. 167181_10150133539543352_4641677_n

My last turn of the decade was celebrated in Peru with a fantastic party put on by my fellow missionaries including dance performances, plays, and a concert by the kids.  It was glorious fun.  I didn’t mind turning 30; I was excited, even though I only had a few rogue gray hairs and just the hints of wrinkles.

It is okay to be happy in one’s skin; it’s okay not to buy any of the fancy weapons of war, it’s okay to skip on the battlefield and look at the wildflowers.

#bloginstead: Party Line

It could bear any title

As long as it were free

To snap to position all parts

Notch into notch, smooth gears agreeing

Mind the party line.


Well, unwelcome shock

Well, intruding doubt

Well, whole heart half-living

Well, quiet now,

Mind the manual, chapter 14, article 11, clause 3A.


The important thing is to move

Move the machine

The machine deserves

Power, please don’t question

And turn off the light.


Are we making the Kingdom?

Hopeful gears think now and then

To themselves as they fit together

Click, click, click

The main thing is moving intone the machinists

Move your piece, forfeit peace, axel grease.









#bloginstead: The Hermit’s Lament

I cannot wring water from stone

There is no kneading of air to make my bread

And words, like water, must have a source


There has never been a carrot tempting enough, perhaps

To make me pump for water, rather

Than spill what must overflow anyways


A writer…I cannot deny it

But, the joy is all in the spilled writing, see it?

The math of my exultation, thoughts+attention+neural acrobatics=a translation of what is, filtered through one soul, though small, bringing some light, some beauty


Well suited to be a hermit

Lend me a shovel, for I have a talent I’d like buried

Why?  It is easier.  What if I offered it and they said it had no light, no beauty?


Who can put out their own heart on the auction block?

Tell me, how do you get the hermit

To give her littlest light?  To give such small beauty?




Tipping Point, On War and Story

Tipping Point, On War and Story


It sits, leaden, heavy within me

Haven’t we read in our bloody history

Laden minutes like these, the push at the ledge

The point of pitch

The birth of irretrievable acceleration?

Headlong into war.

A new year, so freshly given and already

We’ve forgotten to live a different story

Egos flex and soldiers bleed, children die

Scars are carved into the earth, into our souls

And mothers, and fathers swallow grief, they eat tears.

-written January 7, 2020, after hearing the news that Iran had retaliated


This is my small record.  This moment of time on January 7, 2020, just after hearing that Iran has fired missiles at Iraqi bases where coalition forces are stationed, including American troops.

Tears tipped from my eyes and ran hot and free down my face.  War always tastes like this.  I look at my sons, curled up together on the couch.  I remember 9/11; I had cried in the shower.  I had thought of my brother, a soldier.  I did not want the story that seemed to rush downhill upon us.  He was deployed and for a year it felt like a suspended life; sitting but not sitting, sleeping without sleeping, eating without taste.  One feels as though life is held tenuously, so lightly, that a strong wind might carry it away.

How much blood has to spill before we find a different ink, a different story?