September 9th, 2014

Time and distance

Last night I returned to a poetry group that I had started attending when Liesl was around the age of two or three. When I became pregnant with Mathilde, when all the life went out of me, I stopped attending. I didn’t have a single brain cell to spare for anything that seemed extra.

I didn’t attend during Mathilde’s first year because I was the mother of a newborn, and I was tired as she stirred and nursed through the night. I didn’t go back the next year when she was two and Liesl was five, nor did I return the year after that, nor after. So I did the math, and give or take the occasional time I popped in for a lone workshop, it hurt to realize that six years have passed since I was a part of the group.

It is never hard to receive the criticism for my poetry and writing because I’m so aware that I have much further to go. It’s harder to hear criticism about who I am or how I am in the way that such criticisms come up between persons. Still, it’s ridiculous that I think I’m ever defensible. I don’t think any of us are. I have a friend who recently broke up with another friend (or did the equivalent of that, anyway), and seeing how we tend to quit one another when things get most difficult makes me think we show our least or most humanity in such times. Least because who among us doesn’t deserve being quit upon from time to time, and most because we are so feeble when it comes to doing the kind of loving that requires real persistence and effort.

I feel grieved in the way this plays out societally through media and the life lived out online. We all live in glass houses, and so many are throwing stones.

Perhaps it was no different in Jesus’s day, when Jesus himself broadcast a message in the sand for some pious men to see. It was a word to be considered before they strung up a woman they deemed to be unworthy of respect and deserving of their judgment. Those on the left are as guilty of doling out the judgments these days as are those on the right.

Last night, the poem I brought to the workshop to be critiqued was one I wrote in May that I had titled Fireflies. It felt clunky to me, even as I chopped it down to half its size for the workshop. The poem is about how small things bring light or reconciliation. 

Condemnation looms large, laid down from a distance without intimate knowledge of the who, what, or why of a thing. Lovingkindess is small like a breath, and is knowingly spoken. In the biblical Hebrew, lovingkindness (chesedis used only in cases where there is some recognized tie between persons. It’s not indiscriminate; neither is it fleeting nor sentimental.

Six years have passed. And even more time than that. 

September 2nd, 2014

In 100 days


The Thinks's photo project that began in late May ended yesterday, and with its passing one hundred days of thoughts, moments, and sentiments were filed away in photographic memory on the project's Facebook page. I'm trying to get all the photos I snapped in one folder on my computer, which is a harder feat than I'd first realized. It's making me wish I'd been organized about it all along.

Participants snapped from all over the globe: from Ukraine, where Putin’s cruelty was lamented; from Algeria, where the mosques and tiled roofs showed what life in a distant land might look like; from the U.K., where glens and meadows showed me somewhere else I might long to be; and from the U.S. — where life is familiar, familiar to me. All over the world, the summer photographers captured the poetry in the everyday, using words like green, favorite, longing, and happy to inspire a picture (the beginning of a story). 

The holiday weekend in our household was so long, and so uneventful. Mathilde had her last days in her cast (it comes off today), and so we laid around, happily broke up the boredom with scheduled visits to see friends, and in between tried to find something else to do. Liesl strung up a tin-can intercom system through the whole house, and Charles and I keep dodging the wires, which are still all strung up room-to-room at our head and neck height.

Yesterday, the photo word-of-the-day was “the end” and I snapped these with that prompt in mind. The end came, and this summer — with the other changes to time and schedule — left me sitting in a different plane than did May.

Somewhere other than in Texas, autumn begins.





From top to bottom: 1. A supernatural bluebonnet, still alive in August; 2. The girls’ last lazy weekend morning, bonding over a storybook; 3. The end of a cup of coffee; 4. Blurry, the end of my head (and always losing things); 5. Mathilde’s always dancing feet — of which there is no end.

August 29th, 2014

August: End-of-month miscellany


September is coming, and the waiting that emerges (for a change in season, for shorter and cooler days) mirrors the waiting that I seem to be feeling in other areas. Not to be melodramatic, but my life as a mother of young children is over. What a pill to swallow.


This summer, I kept losing things. First it was my $100 Up band, and then my sunglasses, and keys. Most recently it was my beloved red sandals. “How can you lose your sandals?” Charles asked me. I got really testy with my answer. “I don’t know,” I said tersely, through gritted teeth. “If I knew they wouldn’t be lost.”

Who is the patron saint of lost things? Lost minds? Lost thoughts? Lost people?

I pray to her to intercede to Jesus.


Reading Marilynne Robinson’s essay collection, “When I Was A Child I Read Books,” I’ve been challenged to think more deeply about cultural and societal fears. In her essay on community, she writes, “I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly.”

She has a disparaging word about tribes, which only include people who are alike, pitting an “us” against a “them”. I can’t help but think she is whole-heartedly preaching the Gospel with this writing. Community calls: Come all who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. 

Speaking more pragmatically, she writes of the U.S., “Democracy, in its essence and genius, is imaginative love for and identification with a community with which, much of the time and in many ways, one may be in profound disagreement.”

We aren’t keen to disagree anymore, are we? Not as a nation, and not how we relate to each other (so much these days through “social” media). Not knowing people, or knowing them only a little, requires a bit more grace than maybe tribalism requires. 

These are all loose ends.

imageMathilde, still weathering the storm of her broken bone

A view on an evening walkimageSelf-portrait of Liesl, at 8 1/2 going on 18

But I've got a girl in the war, Paul
The only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music
And pray that she makes it through.
—Josh Ritter