Friday, September 26, 2014

Death to Delay

A not so serious one today.


I loathe thee, procrastination,
for all that you do;
for the walls built up around me
for the suffocating weight of to-be-dones
that is your doing.

One day, procrastination,
I will find you.
I will track you to the shadowy mind holes
    where you lurk.
I will hunt you down.
One day you will wake from your apathy
to find my fingers wrapped
around your cold grey neck.
One day, procrastination,
I will slaughter you.

But not today.
Today, I will sit here awhile
and read a book.

Friday, September 19, 2014

View From Inside the Kaleidoscope

What it's like inside my head a lot of the time.


Where is "I"?
Lost in a forest
of frenetically firing synapses:
what is a glyptodon?
Dinner should be chicken.
Daffodil spray, gold on green and bright!
Music, music, music
comes crashing down around me.
Where were you
and where was I
and we were all together.
Where is Borneo?
Struggling on through thoughts
thick as Spanish moss in my eyes
and a noise of bees deafening my ears.
Muddy, muddy, can't get through,
broken branches, broken promises,
music, music, music.
Suitcase full of musty mildew smells and memories.
Where did I leave my shoes?
The dog needs a bath.
Ruby red and liquid orange,
the smell of dish soap.
Story of a bus in trouble.
When did I fly?

Friday, September 12, 2014


Sunset over the ocean

I don't write too many rhyming things, and when I do, they tend to be odd rhythms, like this. But I'm rather fond of this one.


Field of daisies
butterfly clocks
turn in time with the sun;
I am running to meet you
down by the water
where trails of light meld into one
which leaps 'cross the ripples
and into tomorrow
where the waves reach up to the sky
and the golden of daylight
meets the purple of twilight--
we stand watching night drawing nigh.

There's a hush on this moment
one golden moment
I am caught in a moment with you;
With my hand in your hand
we walk back through daisies,
asleep now--awaiting their dew.
The sun clocks have stopped
as though time has ceased:
we walk on eternity's shore.
In the blue-velvet darkness
I am awestruck by beauty;
my heart is too full to take more.

Friday, September 5, 2014



I swear, I do write happy poems from time to time.  Ah well.


The land...the land.
The land is all he has these days:
thrice times twenty acres,
field and forest, blade and tree,
and all the sky above--
but not a soul to call his own.

He built this house himself, you know,
every brick and shingle,
every nail and hinge placed
by his own two work-hard hands:
a shelter meant for her, so long ago,
his Emily, the queen of his heart.

He courted her with simple words and raindrops
for all a promising spring and all a fruitful summer,
but when the time came ripe to ask her,
he turned his face away and said, "Not yet."
Not until he'd a finished home to offer.
Not until his own fields
stood golden in the sun at harvest time.
Not until.

Then came the war,
and the far away,
and when he returned to his empty house,
he found she'd grown tired of "Not until,"
and settled for "Why not?"

Life goes on.
He's watched these fields
through thrice times twenty growing seasons,
the undisputed ruler
of a green and verdant wasteland;
good years and bad years,
but what has he to show for all that?

The land...the land.
The land is all he has these days,
and not a soul to call his own.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Priorities (Poem)

Just a bit of fun this time around!


What is this "no time to read" you speak of?
My problem is different:
no time for anything else.
Dishes pile up in the sink,
in the hamper the dirty laundry expands and expands,
my carpet is growing fur.
But I have no time for these--
there are books to be read:
books and books,
e-books and tree books,
and more where those came from.
No time to read?
A fascinating concept.
You must tell me more when I have a moment--
but first,
let me finish this chapter.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

MATTHEW 16:13-20


Frankly, I struggled a bit to find any deeper meaning in the readings this week. I mean, on the surface, they're pretty cut and dried: God appoints who he wishes to appoint, and, as St. Paul says in the second reading. "How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" Hey, Peter, you're in charge.

In the end, I got caught up in seeing things from Peter's perspective. On a personal level, I can identify with him a bit here because I feel like I'm in a time of transition: making some adjustments, working a little to find who and what and where I'm meant to be. And I wonder what Peter felt in the midst of some of these GIANT CHANGES God was working in his life. He had a stable life at one point, a familiar place, a job he knew and understood. In a short period of time, he answered a call and left all that behind. He is given an entirely new name. Although we aren't told all of his thoughts, I can imagine it must have frequently been both humbling and terrifying.

He was a simple fisherman. There were so many disciples who were, on the surface, much better prepared to lead a Church that would sweep the world: educated men, men with important families, important positions. Can you imagine what people would say today if you decided to assemble an international organization, and out of the blue you stuck some small town fisherman at the head? It boggles the mind. I feel for him.

And yet, he managed it. God gave him the wisdom he needed, the knowledge, the people to support him. He found his faith, and in the end, he found the strength to die for that faith.

It gives little old me hope.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On the Shore (Poem)

Since I'm in a slightly reckless mood this week, I've decided to do more sharing of my poetry on this blog, possibly the start of a weekly feature. Some of my poems are lighthearted and silly, some are a little dark. This one, written a few summers back, falls somewhere in the middle: appreciating and being touched by the joy seen in others' lives, while still feeling a bit wistful about it. We're only human, after all.


I stand on the shore in my solitary state
and across the water watch them:
distant figures on the far shore,
figures of mirth and peace.
The distance obscures,
but in my mind's eye I see them as clear
as if I was in their happy company.
An old man, silver hair glinting,
stands, rough elbows bent,
feet in the sand,
in the dark sand at water's edge
where a blonde child in red
builds towers to the sky:
beautiful misshapen castles
lumpy, bumpy, dripped mud and shell,
bringing beauty to ugliness
as only a child can.
She raises innocent eyes to smile at him;
two generations removed,
she is his own,
his future, his love made new.

I watch,
and am blessed in watching,
though I hurt:
for what have I been spared
that I am left lonely,
left outside the lives of others
touching corners only,
a circling satellite
adrift in the night sky?
Times there are when I wonder if,
should I be taken, now or time far off,
will there be any to mourn?
What mark have I left, and who
would mark my passing?
My going would be
like the drop of a pebble in these waters,
ripples observed, but scarce noted
before the calm waters smooth over again.

There are no castles on the shore for me,
no child of tomorrow.
Though perhaps it matters not in the vast world that is to come,
in this world, for this I grieve.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thorn #1

In the year after Mom died I gained somewhere between twenty and thirty pounds. I don't even know exactly how much--I didn't have a scale through most of that time, and that's maybe just as well. I'm sure it didn't help that I lost my job that same year, and for much of the winter I pretty much lived off cheap cuts of meat and a bag of potatoes someone gave me, with occasional splurges on chocolate and ice cream because I was depressed and grieving and when I'm down, I crave chocolate and ice cream.

All my adult life I've pretty much always been a few pounds over where I'd like to be--a little pudgy. But I was definitely beyond a little pudgy right then.

What really brought it home for me was this: hanging out with friends and co-workers we may say things like "I'd really like to wear x, but I'm just too fat." And friends say, "Oh, you are not." And let's face it: we all fish for those sort of "You aren't that broken" compliments.

But all of a sudden, if I talked about wanting to get in better shape, people wouldn't argue with me or reassure me. Most would avert their eyes, or talk about how a friend of theirs lost weight, without actually quite coming out and saying "Yeah, you really need to do the same." They might not baldly state, "Wow, you're fat!" (well, most didn't), but they wouldn't tell me I was OK, either. The silence spoke volumes.

Changing gears for a moment: I like to write stories. I always have, not just as a little kid when everyone is fascinated by tale telling, not just in grade school and high school when it was required, but doggedly, here and there, always. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the next Elizabeth Enright or Edward Eager or Eleanor Estes. Later, I had other writing idols, but there's never been a time when I didn't want to spin stories.

But I really don't entirely know what I'm doing, and don't know if I really have what it takes to make it *worth* doing.

That last is likely the bigger problem.

I'm not sure it's even possible to be a success as a writer/artist if you a) lack confidence and the ability to self-promote, b) have no champion to make up for a) (some friends and family members have parents and/or spouses who support and critique, and I envy them that tremendously), and c) don't get much in the way of positive feedback and constructive criticism.

Not to be morbid, but I have this vision of dying eventually, and having people go through my stuff, astounded to discover how much I've written over the years. Will they say, "Look! She really was pretty good. Too bad she never really put her work out there." (Which would be sad.)

Or will it be more like, "Look, yet another notebook full of crap. Where did you set that garbage can? Man, she wasted a lot of time." (Which would be far sadder.)

I don't know how one goes about getting an honest answer about abilities/capabilities, either, at least not without being able to go to a quality college-level writing school--something which isn't feasible since I'm not a young kid and have no expendable income. I do post things from time to time or share with friends, but most of the time, I feel like I get a response similar to friends' responses in my fat days. No one wants to be so impolite as to say, "You know, I gotta be honest: you obviously try hard, but're kinda lame and untalented."  I don't get a lot of feedback, one way or the other. As in my previous example, that silence likely speaks volumes.

Earlier this year, I asked friends and family about getting into copy-editing and proofreading, and I've continued to study a bit on that. It would get me more into working with words and I do think it's something I'd enjoy, but only if it was my primary job. As is, I have a job already, and I have little free time--my work day and commute pretty much account for ten hours of my day. When I get home in the evening, I want to write. As much as I like prettying up writing for people at work, I think I'd get more and more frustrated if it took up my mornings and evenings as well.

I've been praying for some sign that trying to write stories isn't just a completely selfish self-indulgence, that I might actually get somewhere with it, that it's worthy of effort. If the answer is that I lack the intelligence and creativity to really "make it," I guess I at least want to know. If the answer is that I need the right person(s) to guide me toward doing something meaningful with writing, I'd like to know that, too.

I don't know what exactly to hope for.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.

Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
MATTHEW 14:13-21


My own brief thoughts from today's Gospel/homily: the disciples were told to feed the crowds themselves. They knew they didn't have enough, that what Jesus asked of them was crazy by normal standards, but they had faith and brought him what little they did have. He did the rest. Yes, he could have created food out of nothing, but he chose to use human beings--with all their shortcomings--as his instruments.

Yes, what we're called to may seem crazy. It may seem like way more than we can handle. We may want to give up, or we may wish God would just take care of everything without any effort on our part, without being transformed through his grace working through us. Instead, we need to bring our meager offerings to him--our small talents, our feeble strength, our few resources--and let him take them farther than we dream possible.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Many Tongues

It's a bit late in the day on Pentecost for this post, but I had to think about it awhile.

Father Wagner has a knack for pointing out details or parallels I've never spotted before. He has a strong Polish accent and his homilies can be a little hard to follow, but these little lights just blow me away at times.

Today, he very briefly compared the Tower of Babel with what happened at Pentecost. How have I never seen that? I've spent much of the rest of the day pondering that one little paragraph from his homily, those two events churning around in my head.

At the Tower of Babel, men acted out of pride and outside of God's will, reaching for heaven without His assistance, and the result was chaos, confusion, and division.

At Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in fear and humility, open to God, though struggling. Likely some doubted. Likely some wanted to run away. And God reached down to them. The Holy Spirit, God's love sent down, brought about peace, order, and unity.

It's a message I really needed today. There are so many choices opening up in my life right now, and sometimes I want to--figuratively speaking--pin God down: take Him by the shoulders and shake Him, force him to tell me exactly what to do and when to do it. But it doesn't work that way. Sometimes, you just have to wait--maybe in a little fear, maybe struggling with doubts. Take each moment as it comes, without worrying too much about the step after that. But know that we are not abandoned, and He will speak to us when the moment is right. We will find our strength when we need it.

Because the Holy Spirit is powerful.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Road Trippin' sister and I are officially on for the Cross-Country Move Adventure, 2014 Edition. The last edition took place back in 2005, when I moved from Vermont to Fort Collins, Colorado, and involved a tightly packed, highly un-hip minivan and two Siamese cats. This year's version will not include the cats, so (by way of a proper handicap to even things out) it will take place in a very small lima-bean-colored Volkswagen New Beetle. I'm meeting my sister in Wisconsin at my brother's wedding (another brother is riding with her that far), and we'll continue out to Washington State from there.

With this coming up in the near future, I've been doing a lot of reminiscing about the past.

The minivan's odometer rolled past 100,000 the day we set out, on a crisp early April day. As we headed down the hill into town, the row of 9's caught my eye, and--wanting to savor the moment--we pulled into the empty parking lot at Pettyco Junction just off Route 18 in Saint Johnsbury, and drove in circles for...well, let's just say it took a lot longer than anticipated to flip over. Goodness knows what any passersby thought of us. And goodness knows what the poor cats thought of this situation.

Many of the most memorable happenings on that trip had to do with the cats. They were pretty good passengers for the most part, but with a quirk or two each. Halvah, for example, would ride on the floor behind the driver's seat, so long as there was music playing. Vocal music, at that--instrumentals would not do. If the music stopped, she'd start howling in protest. And we had very little music with us. We listened to the radio some of the time, but for a very long stretch through Nebraska and Wyoming, there *were* no radio stations. I think we played the same two CDs (Clint Black, and the Everly Brothers--everything else was packed under a zillion pounds of boxes) for about seven hundred miles, punctuated here and there by protesting yowls whenever we decided to toggle from one CD to the other and Halvah was left with silence for THIRTY WHOLE SECONDS.

And then there was Tam. He was fine in the car, pretty much just drowsed in the back on some folded clothing, no trouble at all. Except. The first night we stopped along the way, Margaret and I were both so exhausted we went to bed early, but soon discovered Tam had been saving up his energy all day. As soon as the lights went out, he turned into the Energizer Siamese. He used us as human trampolines. He ran laps around the room. He climbed up in back of the high-mounted TV (I have pictures of this feat somewhere, to prove it). And throughout all this, he kept up a running dialog, as only a Siamese can.

After that first night, we made a point of playing fetch with the little brat (yes, he retrieves--sometimes) for a good long time every evening when we stopped, so everyone could sleep.

We went through New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (where, without the aid of GPS, we ended up headed back *east* in rush hour traffic on the outskirts of Columbus, which was NOT FUN). We drove through Indiana, along the Michigan border, and passed through Illinois. We drove through Iowa, where the land flattened out and faraway towns looked like objects viewed across a tabletop. We drove through Nebraska, and a empty corner of Wyoming, where if we set the radio to scan, it continued scanning forever. We stopped at a McDonald's there, and complete strangers, apparently eager for any outside contact, asked us our life stories and life plans: a bit startling to a couple of gals from Vermont, where sometimes it takes a generation or two to fit in and be acknowledged.....

And finally, with the Rockies to guide us, we arrived in Fort Collins, and met up with my friend and new roommate, who had already been patiently dealing with boxes of my books arriving on her doorstep. Oh, the relief of having a stopping point!

It was a blast of a trip, for the most part. And I couldn't have asked for a better traveling companion. It'll be interesting to see what memories come out of this new trip, and what new challenges we have to meet. We're older, yes, but are we wiser? Only time will tell.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Two years ago today, Doc Watson died, and I had a flat tire.

It was my first bike commute of the year at the old office: a straight shot eight miles up the trail. The morning run had gone swimmingly, but when it came time to ride home, with the news full of Doc Watson's passing, I found one tire completely flat. Five thirty found me alone in the covered walkway outside the building trying desperately, through tears, to get through the unfamiliar motions of patching a tube so I could get home and grieve with my musical family.

And all the while, I felt a little silly that I felt his passing so profoundly: this gentle old man I'd never really met. But that was Doc.

I only saw him perform live once, in Burlington, VT, with my father and brother Jim and some friends I knew via a lively, tight-knit mailing list for flatpickers: FLATPICK-L. It must have been around 1999 or 2000, because I was a newly fledged flatpicking guitarist myself. I'd loved Doc's music from the time I was a baby: as kids, my brother John and I literally wore out tapes of his music. (I later did the same with a tape of "Memories," playing it over and over in my car stereo until it wore thin and finally snapped.) I'd always loved his voice, his conversational way of putting across a song; but when I started my guitar attempts, it made me appreciate his musicianship on a whole new level. He could really make that guitar sing, and make it look so easy.

But as many times as I'd listened to his recordings (and oh boy, we're talkin' a lot of times), it still didn't prepare me for the experience of seeing him live. He had an uncanny knack (particularly for someone who couldn't even see his audience) for drawing you in, making a big concert hall feel like an intimate performance: as if you were relaxing in his living room, just chatting and sharing a few tunes. You couldn't help but love him. He made you instantly feel like a friend of his. It blew me away.

So yes, I cried when Doc left us. He gave the world so much. I doubt I'd be playing music today if it weren't for him--and I can't count the ways music has enriched my life, bringing joy and friendship, teaching me about perseverance and practice, and simply introducing me to the pleasure of a fine wooden instrument resounding at my touch.

Thank you, Doc. For everything.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beautifully Simple

His fingernails were long and dirty and broken, his clothing, beard and hair ragged and unkempt. My first inclination was to jump up and flee.

During Lent this year, my parish participated in 40 Days for Life: 40 days of particular prayer for the end of abortion, and assisting those who find themselves facing this decision, striving to give hope and support rather than a horrifying "solution." I've always been pro-life, and I've signed up for 40 Days before in the past just to pray in support on my own time and in my own place, but I've always been afraid to pray or even just be present in public. This year, I decided to change that, at least for this one time: to push outside my little cocoon and--in a quiet and peaceful way--take a stand.

Throughout the 40 days, volunteers take shifts outside the local abortion clinic, just being there. To add to my unease, the clinic is located downtown. I'm a total country gal: wandering alone in the woods at night doesn't worry me much, but downtown makes me nervous at the best of times--even when not carrying a message that can incite horn blaring, people giving you the finger, verbal abuse.

My second time down there, sitting quietly with another couple, a man suddenly came out of a side alley and plunked a grubby burden down on one of the boxes beside me. He was dirty, obviously homeless, strange, probably not all there...and I stiffened, ready to jump up and move away. "What a beautiful evening, isn't it?" he said, and we mumbled in reply. "Look at what I just found in a dumpster!" he went on, his eyes shining. "Someone was just throwing it away!" He peeled back a few layers of plastic bag to reveal a box containing a disassembled white Christmas tree. His fingers gently plucked at one of the plastic branches. "See how it makes rainbows in the light?" he said--and it did. His delight was simple, child-like. It drew me in. For an instant, I saw things through his eyes, saw loveliness in a cheap and broken plastic tree, decked with lights that no longer worked. "And they were throwing it away!" he marveled again, astonished at his good fortune, so happy to share it with us.

He wrapped it up again, stopping to repair a tear in the bags containing it by means of assorted knots. "I like to braid different colored bags together," he said. "See how nice it looks?" And again, for a moment, I could see. A few more twists and, satisfied, he took his tree and left us with one last smiling glance.

He was, in his own way, one of the most beautiful people I've ever met.

What is the moral of all this? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps a reminder not to judge a book by its cover. And a reminder that there may be unexpected joy and fulfillment even in the most downtrodden and unfortunate of lives.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fiat, Amen

This quote seemed perfect for today, which is both New Year's Day and (in the Catholic Church) the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, who said "yes" not only at the Annunciation, but also every day, every year, in all the little things of everyday life.

O Jesus, I see this new year as a blank page that our Father is giving me, upon which he will write day by day what he has arranged for me in his divine pleasure. With full confidence I am writing at the top of the page from now on: Lord, do with me what you will. And at the bottom I have already put my "amen" to every disposition of your divine will. Yes, O Lord, I say "yes" to all the joys, to all the sorrows, to all the graces, to all the hardships that you have prepared for me and which you will be revealing to me day by day. Let my "amen" be the Paschal amen, always followed by alleluia, uttered with all my heart in the joy of perfect giving. Give me your love and your grace and I shall be rich enough.

~Sr. Carmela of the Holy Ghost