Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Poetic Influence

Michael Wells, over at Stick Poet Super Hero, posed a good question to his readers: What poet/poetry book has meant the most to you this year? Michael’s choice was Robert Bly’s Morning Poems; he gives his reasons here.

I can’t choose a single book of poetry, but without a doubt, Donald Hall has been the poet whose words have made the biggest impact on my writing and thinking as well as on my everyday life in the past year.

Reading Hall’s Breakfast Served Any Time All Day: Essays on Poetry New and Selected was like taking a huge gulp of air after holding my breath for years. I loved (and still do) Hall’s insistence that too many poets publish or attempt to publish their work too soon, his stance that anything worth doing is worth doing not just well, but exceptionally well. “I see no reason to spend your life writing poems,” says Hall, “unless your goal is to write great poems.” The book is a collection of mostly previously published essays, but the content holds consistent over the years through which it was originally published, and is consistently confirming.

In March, overwhelmed with the melancholy restlessness into which spring often spins me, I wrote Hall and asked, “How does one go about having a life?” He’d been kind enough to reply to a few sporadic letters over the course of a year or two previously, a correspondence originating from my gratefulness to him for his book Life Work and out of admiration for Jane Kenyon’s poetry-- poetry I strongly felt was possible because of the life they made for themselves together on Hall’s ancestral farm in New Hampshire. His reply to my impulsive question has given me much to think on this year, along with Breakfast Served: “. . . to have a task, an ultimate and life-long and consuming task.” It was advice, he wrote, that sculptor Henry Moore gave him when he asked the same question of Moore some years ago. (Hall writes about Moore’s advice and their relationship in Life Work.)

I’ve pondered over Hall’s letter and Breakfast Served the remainder of the year, and while I’m not ready to write about those ponderings yet, I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to tie my brain in knots. I connect with Donald Hall’s writing, with his sharp wit and plainspoken approach to crafting poetry. He’s got my vote for 2004, hands down, Michael.

Treasures in the Dark

“Writing about attention, I see that I have written a good deal about pain. This is no coincidence. It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me to pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right. Yesterday the marriage may have ended. Tomorrow the cat may die. The phone call from the lover, for all my waiting, may not ever come, but just at the moment, just now, that’s all right. I am breathing in and out. Realizing this, I began to notice that each moment was not without its beauty.” ----Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

True. When all false hopes and vain expectations have been shattered, when we find ourselves to be devastatingly human and horrifically fallible, when the cold waters of despair are rising about our throats, how unbearably lovely the clear notes of the meadowlark, the rays of the sun piercing the fog and empty branches of the morning with spears of near-blinding light. The small, the commonplace, the quotidian become for us once again the treasure they are meant to be always.

I am not satisfied that this should be so. I want to live consciously in the midst of glory everyday, every hour, every minute. I want to be constantly aware that we’re breathing in the dust of stars with our every breath, that we ourselves are made of it. I want such a perpetual wonder of the living riches around me and the light that shines in and through them, that desire for anything else is totally nullified, that false hopes and vain expectations have not even the potential of significance. I want these things for all of us.

In the meantime, I will try to welcome pain when it comes. Not with glee, no, but with as much willingness as I can muster. Some places are easier to walk through if one doesn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming, and beauty is easier to see in dark places if one’s eyes aren’t clenched shut.

Sometimes it Hurts to Breathe

Thanks to Feebs for saying that for which I have no words.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Highlights from Our Literary Future

Great Scott is grading end-of-the-semester papers from his classes. I love it when he grades student writing; he sends wonderful little gems of fun to my inbox if he's grading at school, and if he's doing it at the dining room table, I get to hear them firsthand. . .once I can get him to stop laughing long enough to read them aloud.

Some are simple but unfortunate typos or spelling errors:

"Has any creature, on this world or the next, ever installed as much fear as he has?"—Microsoft, perhaps.

"People die not b/c of bread making, but from the medical knoledge." --Totally believable when puts like this.

"The mother car carries a kitten back to the nest if it strays too far.

"The community is very shocked and uphauled by the death of Caesar." --Indeed.

"Caesar was found in the capitol with multiple stab wombs."

"Falling stars, ghosts, and loins roaming through the streets of Rome.”—Well, it explains a great deal , doesn’t it?

"Dear mead is good nutritious meat...."

"This will draw the deer to one cretin...." --Note to hunters: be sure to take the right cretin into the woods with you.

"Deer make this sound when they are exited...."—Yes. . . well.

Other passages are somewhat disturbing as well as entertaining, especially since they seem to be products of reasoning difficulties rather than more cosmetic errors:

“From murder to rape and even plain old common conversation this book will leave you wanting more.”—Oh, really?!?

“In a town full of racism and other human behaviors they get first hand experience in all of them.”

"The more we find out the more we will know, so we will be more informed."

"The more we know the more we will know, so we will know more, you know?"

"I think we need a bully as a leader, so someone can't just move in here and take over.” --One of my personal favorites.

Perhaps it’s all more understandable than not, however, when one takes a good look at the faculty communication going on behind the scenes, such as in this memo:

“Teachers: I have a lot of students who want to make schedule changes. This is the first time that it is just me so please bare with me as I will go as fast as I can."

Monday, December 27, 2004

Stars in the Season

Repeated phone conversations last week and weekend with my sister and my brother, each nearly halfway across the country. Getting to hear my almost-four-month old niece make niece noises into the phone.

Watching a first grade class sing with finger shaking vehemence, the lines, "He knows if you've been good or bad, so you better be good, for goodness' sake!" They obviously were familiar with both the sentiment and the proper delivery. Downright fierce.

Noting our daughters' reactions to two twelve-hour days of watching Hercules. The younger would bounce up and down on the couch and call out, "Get 'em, Hercules! Whack him! Blood! Blood! Blood!" The older would cross her arms, raise her eyebrows pointedly and declare, "THAT girl needs to put on more clothes! She's going to catch pneumonia running around like that!"

Lying on the couch listening to Scott read the Christmas story aloud from Luke. Letting the ages-old words heal aches I hadn't let myself realize were there.

The quiet of the house at three o'clock Christmas morning as I was finishing up gifts for the next day. I didn't want to go to bed. I wanted to stay in the quiet, in that restful unhurried place forever, the cat curled beside me in front of the stove, everyone I loved safe and whole.

My mom and dad bringing homemade beef stew with them when they came over Christmas evening. It broke a three day migraine and made the whole day better.

Stepping outside into silence last night and seeing the white moon in a midnight blue sky etched with black branches.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Season's Snarls

For the second time in as many days, I have lost a lengthily prepared post.

I am refraining from cyber-violence.

Instead, I am going to get offline and go watch Great Scott's new Christmas present with him (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, seasons one and two). If Kevin Sorbo's acting can't make me laugh, at this point, there is, indeed, no hope.

In all seriousness, I apologise. I've been a very bad blogger lately. It's not likely to get better, however, until after the Christmas chaos settles.

I shall endeavor to persevere!

Merry Christmas. Joyous Noel.

Happy Hercules to all!

Monday, December 20, 2004

We Hates the Worms, Precious! We Hates Them Forever!

Virus type worms, that is. Nasty security program jamming little buggers. Finally, though, after three days, I think I've not only gotten rid of them, but also very neatly collapsed their sneaky little cyberspace tunnels and sealed them off with concrete.

And if that doesn't work, I'm going to find a really, really, big, mean, virtual roc and set it loose in my system.

So there.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Choice Decoration

Christmas tends to get a little more exciting than I'm usually prepared to handle. School programs and parties scurry out of the paneling like happy little woodlice, and church activities multiply exponentially, all assuming my cooperative--nay, joyous participation. Shopping necessitates getting out of the house (to my introverted distaste) and going to places where there are people en masse scurrying around like more happy little woodlice, and then, when I finally acquire and bring home the booty, it lounges around on my floor demanding wrapping paper, tape, ribbons and bows, gift bags, tissue, name tags and peeled grapes. Christmas decorations drag themselves blearily out of my closet, displacing everything "stored" between themselves and the door. They yawn and stretch themselves out across the living room floor and over the dining room table in languorous poses, batting their tinsel flirtatiously in my direction and waiting to be placed around the house in locations that will show them to their best advantages. It can get a little overwhelming, all this catering to expectation.

For a couple of weeks, I've felt building holiday tension and ignored it. Today I realized I can't ignore it any longer. Standing in Borders bookstore, a book of Mary Oliver's poetry in my hand in a desperate attempt to regain perspective, I came face to face with the fact that I was too wound up to read. This just does not happen. Something had to give.

The trip home afforded me some time to think, to steady, to kick a clear place in the festive jumble of holiday happenings and make some choices.

1). Whatever decorative Christmas objects aren't already out. . .ain't goin' out.

2). Gift certificates for everyone! (Border's personnel love me.)

3). Laundry and dishes are festive when they're clean.

4). Going to every church and social function of the season. . .is utter nonsense.

Peace on earth and good-will toward other human beings are the best ornaments of the season, and the ones for which I'll willingly reach out my hand in fragile hope and wonder this Christmas: in hope of grasping them more firmly and surely this year, and in wonder that they're possible at all despite the chaos we make of the season.

All the other ornaments can go back in the box.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Songs, Fairies and the Urge to Decapitate Something

My girls love to watch cartoons on Saturday morning when they can get away with it. Their favorite one is Winx Club, a weekly installment of incredibly girly fairies fighting evil. This last weekend, our daughters managed to memorize the entire theme song and then sang it for two days straight, non-stop. Now, granted, I love to hear their lovely voices. Their pitch and rhythm accuracy is quite remarkable for their ages. But there are only so many times one can hear the Winx Club theme song, even if it does have quality lyrics like the following:

We've got the style,
and we've got the flair!
Look all you want,
but don't touch the hair!

It was amusing in a warped sort of way the first fifteen times. What isn't so amusing is that even after the girls stopped singing this charming little ditty, it remains perkily playing itself through my mind.

I need a nice calming walk through the woods. Yes. Wind through the bare limbs, the scent of gently molding leaves and fallen hedge apples, water running over stone, the silence broken only by scattered phrases of birdsong and the sound of my own even breaths. Yes. That should help.

Perhaps I might even see a real, live fairy!

I could stomp its little head! (Oh, joyous thought!)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Coming Clean

You know what messes me up more than almost anything else? Church and religion related ponderings. I start muddling them around in my head, trying to determine the absolute best way to go about doing whatever enterprise I'm embarking on at the moment, and I end up frustrated, irritated, restless, anxious, discontent and just plain out of sorts! That's where I've been for the past two or three days, pondering possible blog subjects and growing more and more frustrated with each one.

"I don't have anything to say on this that's not being said elsewhere!" I griped to God. "And even if I said something, most people are more interested in debate or feel-good agreement pat-me-on-the-back responding than in the truth and spirit of the matter."

God raised an eyebrow. For some reason He does this a lot when we talk. "Your point?" He asked.

"My point is that I don't want to write about religion, about the way the church ought to be, about all the gunk people do to each other in the name of Christianity!"

"Ah." He paused. "Who asked you to?"

I blinked. "But everyone else. . ."

". . .is doing it," He finished for me. Again with the eyebrow. "A hundred thousand lemmings. . ."

". . .can't be wrong," I finished for Him. "But they're not lemmings, Father. They're speaking truths that need to be said."

"Yes," He replied calmly. "But they're not your truths, Cindy. Not the ones I've given you to speak."

"Oh." :::feeling a bit foolish:::

He patted me on the head. "It's ok. You're a bright animal. You'll get the hang of it." I shot Him a look, and He grinned.

Am feeling better about the whole business this evening. Spent some time on a forum where I moderate, speaking truths there that He's given me to speak there. Apt words. Finding apt words for Quotidian Light is a little more difficult, but I'm beginning to find my way. At least I know which roads not to go down now. And to those of you like Feeble Knees (here and here) and Rick (thanks to Jadon for this link), who speak truths about issues that do desperately need to be addressed--Thank you. I appreciate you tremendously.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Few things feel better than having finished something you'd been putting off. In my case, it's been a couple of poetry submissions with December dates for deadlines. I dread cover letters. I hate listing publications and nominations, hate having to sell myself. It reeks of falsehood. Still, I do understand the necessity. Every once in awhile, though, something inside cracks and gives way. This summer the editor of one anthology I submitted to neglected to give his name in the call for submissions. His was the second cover letter I'd wrestled with in the same day, and full of frustration, resentment and the need for relieving humor, I addressed him as "Dear Mr. Evil Genius Editor." He took the poem. Go figure.

Today I have just finished getting the December submissions composed, printed, weighed, enveloped, stamped and finished. It feels good. Done. Complete. (A rare and luxuious experience for us INFP's.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pulled Under

Mood swings can take me under faster than blinking. One minute I'm fine, humming and clipping freshly washed sheets to the clothesline in the morning sun; then suddenly I'm standing stockstill, flooded by a wave of melancholy so intense I hardly have the energy to lift the next clothespin. For the most part, I try to take one day at a time, sometimes one minute or one breath at a time, and I go on. I'm lucky in being able to do so. A few years ago a very good friend was diagnosed with Bipolar I, and through our friendship and my own research, I've come to realize how very lucky I am, indeed. Mood swings I have, yes, but nothing like what she has to deal with, nothing that turns my own mind back on itself without some serious medication to hold it in check.

I've nothing but respect for people who live with manic depressive illness. People like Bruce, who use their hard-won personal experience with it to encourage better understanding of the condition within the church (which all too often tries to cover it up, exorcise it or poo-poo it away) are to be heartily commended. Another bipolar blogger I've found is David, whose entries documenting unreliable moods and his efforts to walk through them, I've found to be diligently honest without tipping into the self-pity that is so easy and so deadly. As I get more adept at blog surfing, I'm sure I'll find others. For now, these two are a couple of my daily reads.

Jane Kenyon's poem, "Having it Out with Melancholy" is a great comfort, an accurate expression of the struggles of the person with bipolar. Although it deals mainly with the depressive side of the disorder, the poem does convey the helplessness and frustration, the inexplicable and often frightening elements that for the bipolar person are. . .well, quotidian fact.

There's got to be a purpose, I keep thinking. I know the world's a broken, messed up place, but even the broken parts make sense, if you can trace their origins back to what they must have been intended to be in the first place. What about intense moods? I can't accept that their intensity is itself a result of the shattering, although I have no problem believing that their uncontrollableness is. Things happen in these highs and lows--startling, amazing, perplexing things--that don't in the inbetweens. I'm not talking about the obviously rotten stuff (despair, psychosis) but about the inexplicable (enhanced insight, creativity), things that happen during both poles of mood.

Pondering. . .

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

That's Entertainment!

Today I've been fuzzy. Blanked out. Stumbling around groggy (despite the shameful lack of proper grog in the house. Arrrgh, Matey!). So, for the sake of the sanity of Quotidian Light's hapless readers, I'll refrain from posting anythng particularly original. Instead, here is a link , an invitation to sharpen your own originality as well as to enjoy that of others.

And here is what is possibly my all time favorite site on the Web. I've inflicted it on some of you all aready, through more personal means, but it's worth repeated infliction.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Monday was a rough day in some ways, a day of trying to settle back into routine after the weekend, a day of bracing for the rest of the week. Always, I feel pressured to dive into housework, to make necessary phone calls, to run errands, to be busy. Pressure is not my friend. So bad was the buildup that when I turned off the car's ignition after driving the girls to school and returning home, I left my purse on the front seat and set out for the fields. If the most important things don't get done first, nothing else will fall into place. The challenge is remembering and believing in what's really most important. For days I'd been putting off taking a walk, knowing I needed to, dreading the silence that comes, the silence I love, need and dread, the silence in which I most often hear my own heart and that of my Father.

I had to duck under a couple of electric fence strands to find a place to cross the creek; rain had filled its waters to rushing, and the stepping stones and narrow places at which I normally cross were flooding. I finally found a spot under a wild plum tree further downstream than usual, then kept on along the bank, following the water's flow. The sound of running water is infinitely soothing, and I rather desperately needed soothing that day, so over tree roots and under wire strands I continued scrambling, until I came to the place where the creeks from the north and south sides of the house join. There I picked my way to the middle, to the very point of their confluence, and stood. I probably cried. I do sometimes, when the burblings and rushings of the water wash away my defenses along with the debris of old leaves and dead grass, pushing clear the center.

I don't know how long I stood on the point of the gravel bar, the two converging streams at my back, facing the stronger single current of their joining. Part of the time I watched the empty branches of the sycamores in their stark beauty; part of the time I closed my eyes and let myself be drenched in sound. Time meant nothing. My feet were damp and chilled from the frost that had crunched underfoot on my walk there. My coat wasn't heavy enough. I was cold, but more from the inside than the outside. Then a branch snapped closely behind me.

The coyote must not have seen me until I'd begun to turn. His body was still moving toward me, even as he turned his head and began doubling back in a smooth, unhurried motion. He was close--about eight feet away. I could see the individual hairs in his coat, how thick and shining they were, their tips touched with black, how they turned almost gold along their lengths as he padded through a shaft of sunlight, then turned and trotted once more in the direction he'd originally been heading, more distance between himself and me, this time. Not once had he looked at me. Not once did I take my eyes from his nonchalantly trotting body until the underbrush rose so thickly between us that I couldn't follow his path any longer.

I came up from the creek bed and into the field feeling stunned, like a fish might feel if it were thrown out of water onto sun-drenched gravel and suddenly found it could breath air after all. I half-stumbled home, discombobulated in wonder and joy, in the dulled memory of pain and in longing, and crossed the creek in a single leap at the regular place, flooded stepping stones or no.

Something's changed. Not a big something, but something, nonetheless. There is a stillness in me--for a while, at least--and etched branches against the sky, and water pouring over stone, and living light.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Kay Redfield Jamison Interview

Sunday after church, as I headed out to pick up the girls at their grandmother's house, I stumbled across an interview with Kay Redfield Jamison on NPR concerning her new book, Exuberance. Jamison is the author of An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (her personal experience with bipolar disorder), Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (on the link between the two), and Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. She's a psychiatrist and professor at John Hopkins Medical School and one of the world's foremost authorities on manic depression. She's also a writer who will take your breath away and knock your socks off.

Jamison has been researching the emotional state of exuberance for some time now, gathering information from a variety of sources. She says there is a surprising lack of words from the fields of medicine and psychiatry with which to describe exuberance . Surprisingly enough, she finally found the vocabulary she was looking for primaily in the field of theology. The arts--literature, visual arts, dance--were the next best source.

The link between creativity and joy, creativity and despair, creativity and emotions, period, gnaws at me. And now, to throw theology into the mix. Hmmm. . . Methinks Exuberance is a book to procure, peruse and ponder postehaste.

Just When I Thought I Could Slack Off

I'm a slacker. I confess. There is nothing I love more than to wander aimlessly outside gazing happily at the fluffy white clouds while inside the house dirty dishes congregate on the counters laying plans to stage a revolution and seize the kitchen by sheer force of numbers. Today was cloudy; there were no fluffy white clouds in the heavens. So I took a nap with the cat. Ah, indolence!

To tell the truth, I've been getting lackidasical about the blog, too, starting to let my attitude of diligence slide. Then, not ten minutes ago, I web-wandered onto Marriages Restored, Ben's blog. His post on Quotidian Light took me totally by surprise and smacked me right upside the head (as we say in Missouri) with conviction. Ben, did you have to emphasize the word "daily" in your definition of "quotidian?!?" Argh! :::writhing in conviction:::

Seems like God does this to me, though. He knows and I know that I'm not doing something I need to be doing, so He sends gentle or not so gentle nudges. If I don't comply, the nudges turn into tender shoves. Ignore those, and He trips me to get me to hold still and pay attention. Once or twice He's gone so far as a full body slam. Ouch!

I don't think I can handle a spiritual body slam at this point, so I'm taking the hint. Ben, thanks for your kind words and for being the messenger of conviction.

Time to get back to work.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Most Beautiful Woman I Know

The most beautiful woman I know had her 88th birthday today. My grandmother. Her gentle spirit and sense of humor, her steadiness and love have made her the heart of our extended family. I am graced beyond my own comprehension to know her, to visit with her, run errands with her, clean house with her and to sit in her presence. She is beautiful past measure.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Where There's Smoke

This week the Fairy, who is seven, came home with a lovely little song (if a bit morbid) to be sung to the tune of "B-I-N-G-O." It goes like this:

If there's a fire in my house, this is what I'll do.
Get out and stay out. Get out and stay out.
Get out and stay out. This is what I'll do.

If my clothes should catch on fire, this is what I'll do.
Stop, drop, and roll around. Stop, drop, and roll around.
Stop, drop, and roll around. This is what I'll do.

If smoke makes it hard to breathe, this is what I'll do.
Crawl close to the ground. Crawl close to the ground.
Crawl close to the ground. This is what I'll do.

Suddenly it was all so clear: her anxiety about the paperpile known as "Mommy's Desk" catching fire, her worries about falling into the rosebushes beneath her window should she have to leap from our burning house, her request for a fireladder for Christmas, the way she'd been counting the number of plugs in the outlets lately.

"Are you doing a unit on fire safety in school?" I asked. The answer was an enthusiastic affirmative.

Ah HA!

I'm grateful for the practical education our girls get in school, glad that they learn safety facts as well as their ABC's and algebra. But sometimes I do get a bit exasperated, I'll admit. Take, for instance, the unit on Tornado Survival. Once the girls ascertained that Mommy's Closet was the safest place in the house should a tornado descend from the skies, I began finding certain cherished toys tucked amidst my shoes. Then pillows. Then stashed snack food. After all, they reasoned with me when faced with the evidence, we don't want to starve to death or be uncomfortable while our rescuers dig us out of the rubble. Hard to argue that point, especially when the little dears have had the forsight to include chocolate in the stash. Hmmmm. . .

But by far the most fun I've had from school safety courses occured one evening in the kitchen. Nothing was actually on fire, but there was a lot of steam. Thick steam. Steam that may have had a faintly acrid smell. I was standing by the stove waving my arms for exercise when I heard thumping and spied our daughters bellycrawling across the floor in an impressive military style. "Keep down!" the older commanded the younger, "or the smoke will get into your lungs!" The younger cooperatively hunched lower and puffed out her cheeks in an attempt to hold her breath. I didn't know whether to be insulted or laugh out loud and was trying to make up my mind when the Princess suddenly stopped crawling and propped herself up on her elbows, looking thoughtful. "Actually," she said in a completely normal tone of voice, "this isn't the killing kind of smoke."

Quality education. It's a must.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Time Enough

Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” ---Matthew 11:19b

So often my instinctual wisdom flies in the face of everything I’ve learned about how we “ought” to live. Time, for example, is a concept beyond me. I always feel rushed and overwhelmed, unable to accomplish what I think is expected when I try to measure up, to live in the world at its own pace. My own instinct tells me to slow down and pay attention, to dwell in the light present in the everyday, in the mundane. I have to keep reminding myself. . .

There is enough time. There is enough time. There is time enough and time enough and time enough to move through this world slowly, to take it in, hold it in one’s open heart and let it rest and flutter there, to trace its markings with a fingertip, to wonder at its fragile bones, its feet pressing into your palms and the multi-faceted eyes that turn upon their stalks.

There is time for this. For your child reading, pressed against your side, finger following beneath the flowing words, her voice dropping baubles of bright sound into the air. Time enough for silence, for the rhythms of the winter stove, its old unbalanced fan pulsing heat into the chilly house, faithful in decrepitude. Time for the savoring of sheets, flannel in your hold as you tug and pull them smooth; for dishes lifted shining from the soapy water; for the plucking off of dead leaves from the houseplants stretching their slow tendrils on the windowsills; for the wiping away of dust; for the revealing of what lies beneath.

There is time enough, and wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

“Let the excellence of your work be your protest,” William Lane, a college professor and mentor, told Michael Card.

Let the excellence of your life be your protest. Vindicate the wisdom you are given. Let the world unfurl its wings in your open hand. Open your eyes. Be still. See. Stand witness.

Crippled Ducks

Yesterday as I was taking the girls to school, the truck in front of me hit a duck. He was waddling happily along with his feathery white friends one minute, crossing the road from a morning dabble in a ditch puddle, and the next was flat on his back, small webbed feet paddling the air, his wings flapping weakly, widespread at his sides.

I managed to straddle him with my car, but felt bad, nonetheless. Ducks are pretty, after all, if not so bright. On the way home, I fully expected to see him still in the other lane, if perhaps a bit flatter courtesy of other drivers. Instead, as I turned the curve, there he was, sitting upright in my lane, painstakingly dragging the small feathered boat of his body toward the grass at the side of the road. He listed a bit to starboard.

I was tempted to finish him off, I’ll admit. Even if he didn’t have any internal injuries (which was unlikely), what kind of a life would he have now, with at least one leg broken? Toppling over when he stands up? Swimming in circles? Turning somersaults in the water when he tries to dive? I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even though I knew he’d likely die in the rain and cold before the day was over. Then, of course, I felt guilty the rest of the day for leaving him to suffer.

Truth is, though, somedays we're all ducks.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Why Not Be Flame?

"A disciple once came to Abba Joseph, saying, 'Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, my little fast, and my little prayer. And according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my mind of all evil thoughts and my heart of all evil intents. Now, what more should I do?' Abba Joseph rose up and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He answered, 'Why not be totally changed into fire?'"

This, this, is what I want. To be flame. Pure light. I want it in my writing. I want it in my relationships with other people. I want it in my home. I want it in my heart and mind, in my breathing in and breathing out. I want it to be so much who I am that I am not even aware of its being so.

Christ in us. His promise, and He says He will complete what He has begun in us. That's the only reason I dare hold to any hope at all of it ever being so, audacious as that hope seems.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Black Friday

A most decided introvert, I shudder at the mere approaching, even only in thought, of the Temple of Mammon (the mall) on the busiest shopping day of the year. No holiday bargains for me, sadly, but the day was a rousing success, nonetheless!

I spent Friday untangling phone line, snipping wires from a defunct security system and crawling through the attic, my elbows and knees balanced precariously on the joists to keep from falling through the ceiling, in order to run a wire from our existing phone line to my computer downstairs.

I love playing with electricians tape and wires and electricity and getting everything all hooked up and ready to go and the phone still works and you're covered in isulation with your hair looking like Nicholas Cage's in Raising Arizona and you don't even get shocked this time because you remember not to lick your fingers to twist the little copper wires together after you've stripped the plastic insulation off them without turning off the current at the outside box and then at last you're standing with the phone line in one hand and you put the little pluggy dohickey into your computer and. . .

it won't work.

And you do a little checking and then discover that your computer has no modem.

And you feel a bit foolish.

And your phone won't work for some reason, either, with this little pluggy do-hickey plugged in. Hmmmmmm. . .

So you call up your computer genius father who is smarter even than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or any of those guys, the computer genius father who built a computer from pieces-parts when you were little and taught you to count in binary when you were eight and how to solder circut boards when you were twelve and how to play Hunt the Wumpus back when computers used cassette tapes instead of floppy's or CD's. . .and you call him up and he says he's probably got a modem lying around somewhere, so you run errands to get movies and groceries and swing by to see him while you're at it and he shows you a thingy a lot like the little pluggy do-hickey that goes on the end of a phone cord but is just a little bigger, and you say, "Yes!!! That looks more like the size of the hole I plugged the phone line thingy in, but it didn't work!" And he raises one eyebrow and grins and tells you you plugged the internet line into the networking hookup place and then he finds a modem and gives it to you and says the phone should work a lot better if you put THIS in your computer and THEN hook up the phone line to it, and you go home and do that and. . .

Voila!! It works!!!

And you go watch really cool movies with Great Scott and The Princess and The Fairy for the rest of the evening and are very, very, very happy.

The end.

Thanksgiving Day

Posting has been spotty, yes, to say the least. That's what Thanksgiving breaks are for, however: a total chucking of schedule. Right?

Thanksgiving day was spent at Great Scott's mom's house. She did the traditional feast: homemade rolls, mashed potatos, stuffing, gravy, turkey, corn, green beans, cranberry relish stuff, salad. . . you name it; it was on the table--for a little while at least. My contribution was desserts: pumpkin pie, chocolate satin pie (more like fudge pie), and angel food cake with frozen strawberries. A good day. Spent the afternoon nibbling on leftovers and playing Cranium Cadoo with The Princess, The Fairy and my brother-in-law's girlfriend, L. Had lots of fun and made arrangements with my very thoughtful mother-in-law (who is a great grandmother!) for the girls to spend the weekend in a week.

Came home tired and more stuffed than the turkey had been, with enough leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast the next day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Snowstorms, Opthamologists and Trout Fishing in America

True comfort, I learned today, is driving home in a mid-November snowstorm with two drowsing daughters while listening to Trout Fishing in America.

Our older daughter (henceforth to be known as The Princess), 10, had her first eye exam today and had the news confirmed. Glasses are needed. We live an hour from the opthamologist's office, and since there was only a half day of school today, both girls went to the appointment and to pick out The Princess's new frames. Snow was flying thick by the time we started to drive back home, and the truck I was driving (my car, Lady, being "indisposed" yet again) wanted to dance with the wind instead of driving through it. The girls were nodding in their seats; the sky was a white-grey with the horizon almost lost in swirling silent flakes; and Trout Fishing in America was singing "Carry Me" through the speakers. Peace comes at the oddest times.

We also found out that our younger daughter (henceforth The Fairy) will need glasses by next year. :::wince::: This is what happens when people who have reading addictions marry each other. Take note and beware!

Now we're home again, the old gas heat stove rattling its fan downstairs like a jet plane taking off, and I'm happy. Yes, the house is a wreck: the dishes aren't done, and the floor could stand a vacuuming; there's laundry on a chair in the living room, and my desk is still mostly buried despite my best intentions and efforts to unearth it. Still, it's Thanksgiving break: The Princess will soon be able to see clearly again; Great Scott gets a few hard-earned days' break, and The Fairy and I will have opportunities for cuddles in mid-day. Am most grateful!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Your After-lives

Supposedly, after you've scribbled down five alternate lives, you're supposed to go out and do something related to one of them. (For example, go to some stables and do a trail ride if one of your lives was a cowboy.) The idea isn't to chuck your own life out the window, but to play. So this morning I wrote thirty minutes worth of fantasy fiction before I got out of bed.

And something happened.

I have energy. Frenetic energy. I'm trying to eat everything in the house (insert picture of large Muppet, somewhere between Sweetums and Animal, stomping through the forest chanting, "Sugar! Sugar! Sugar! MEEEEEEAAAAAT!!!"). It's only 10 a.m. and I've got three loads of laundry done and have tormented the cat. I want to write MORE, but I can't sit still, have to get up and walk around restlessly. I want to run. Run through the woods. Lope like the wind! Rob a bear of its kill and howwwwwwwlll!!!

Ahem. Yes. Well.

So. What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Monday, November 22, 2004

If You Had Five Other Lives . . .

I've been working my way through a book on creativity. A sort of writer's block therapy between covers. One of the exercises last week was to quickly think of five other lives you'd lead besides this one. Examples given were painter, cowboy, policeman, teacher (for crazy and/or the really dedicated among you!), dancer, etc. . . You're not supposed to put too much thought into it--just do it, then look at it. One of the main purposes of the book is to get uptight people like me to remember how to PLAY and then dare to DO it!

I was intrigued with my results. I chose

Watercolor painter
Fantasy/sci-fi book writer
Web-page designer (I know NOTHING about this, but it "feels" like it could be fun.)
Sorceress/Prophetess (Yeah, it's going beyond the scope of what the book intends, but hey, it's creative!)

It made me curious to know what other people might say, so I'm going to go post a link to Randy's website and see if anyone else wants to volunteer a little self-disclosure.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Friday, November 19, 2004

Light for Today

This morning's light was clouded. And beautiful. I know chilly, misty mornings depress some people, but to me they're comforting, softened around the corners. The trees in our yard are completely bare of leaves now, and their black branches stand out against the pale grey sky like Chinese calligraphy, delicate and bold. I lay awake trying to decipher them for a little while. Sometimes mystery is better than knowing, though. Even if it is more frustrating.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Thursday, January 01, 2004