Sunday, February 28, 2010

in preparation for longer days ahead...

i stumbled onto this poem on a site i love ( - check it out!) and it moved me like few poems i've read recently. i'm not familiar with the author but am now moved to check out more from him...

-- Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli" you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning -- to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing,

that also needs accomplishing
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue

but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

- to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.

*(image taken at the hostel where we stayed in Haifa, Israel - September 2008)

Friday, February 26, 2010

a wee post about babies...

lots of people i know are pregnant. which is rad. it's exciting to bring new life into the world (i presume) and it's amazing to watch women and men i knew in one phase of life seamlessly transition into another phase of life.

also, this week, i spent some quality time with my dear friend, who happens to be a nanny. after i left i realized how overjoyed i felt about that time. much of it is because i love my friend dearly, but a lot of it came from spending time with a baby. and a ball. i spent what could have been hours rolling a ball across a blanket. and each time Baby threw the ball, or held the ball, or even seemed to know where the ball was, we all got excited. fake-excited, sometimes, but sometimes genuinely enthusiastic.

it reminded me of this essay by G.K. Chesterton. i love this article for what is says about children and their role in our world. but mostly for what it reminds us about the adults in our lives.

by G.K. Chesterton

(from the essay "In Defence of Baby Worship" from THE DEFENDANT. 1903.)

The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and secondly, that they are in consequence very happy. . .

The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

. . . If we could see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. . . We may scale the heavens and find new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not found - [the one] on which we were born. But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revloutionary theory of the marvellousness of all things. We do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. . . [and] that attitude towards children is right. It is our attitude towards grown up people that is wrong. . .

Our attitude towards children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an unfathomable respect; [we reverence, love, fear and forgive them.] We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them, refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them properly. . . If we treated all grown-up persons with precisely that dark affection and dazed respect with which we treat [the limitations of an infant, accepting their blunders, delighted at all their faltering attempts, marveling at their small accomplishments], we should be in a far more wise and tolerant temper. . .

The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious reason, we do not feel oursleves or our own ways to be supernatural. The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to been through a microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small. . . we feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that [God] might feel. . .

But [it is] the humorous look of children [that] is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the cosmos together. . . [They] give us the most perfect hint of the humor that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

physician, cure thyself...

[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place."
Luke 4:16-24

This section of Luke has come up twice in the past 24 hours, completely at random. One of the times it came up was during lectio divina with my Ignatian spiritual exercises group. I placed myself in this scene, and thought about how excited i would be for Jesus, this hometown hero, this miracle worker, to come back to us. and how disappointed and angry and hurt i'd be to hear that his message, his healing, his grace wasn't for me. or for me alone. we weren't the only chosen people. we weren't the heirs to David's legacy.

i also thought a lot about home, specifically and conceptually. my sister just came to visit and it was a beautiful and confusing collision of two worlds. i think part of what was so challenging was wanting to think of myself as a changed person - not a prophet, maybe a prophet-lite. but, my sister knows me. she's known me my whole life. and so that's not how i appear to her. it's not how i appear to myself, either. i find myself unable to articulate what i do here, what i love here, and why i might want to stay. i think it's one of the joys and curses of family - they have such a longevity of knowledge of you and can see the places where you're the same, even when you think you've changed.

it's interesting to think about the context of this passage, specifically. Jesus has just been tempted in the desert - he's been fasting, he's faced temptation, and then, after probably performing some miracles and pouring out some grace, he finds himself back in his hometown, with his people. and instead of tripping down memory lane with them, he gives them the vision of his ministry. and then he tells them it's not just a vision for them. and they get so mad, they try to kill them. apparently, those Nazarites aren't really the ticker-tape-parade sort. Regardless, it shows the depth of challenge to what Jesus said - people were ready for him to breeze into town and fix things. instead, he tells them the vision and then says "other people need this first. it will happen. but not yet. and not here." that gives me a little solace - maybe i'm meant to do good things, biggish things, far away from the people who love me. or maybe that's just me twisting the Gospel so i don't feel too badly about not knowing where i'm supposed to be...

But, on this journey toward Lent, it's good to remember that Jesus' ministry starts out amongst people who know him. And the specific vision he presented enraged them so much that they tried to kill him. That's the Jesus I believe in - the one whose love is so great, whose vision is so challenging, and whose grace is so costly that many people try to kill him, and some even (temporarily) succeed. That's the Jesus whose Resurrection I long for. That's the Jesus I want to follow, even into my own hometown...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a very belated semi-valentine's day poem

i wrote this right before valentine's and prevaricated about posting it. reflecting on relationships, and how i am in them, involves two sets of feelings. but, with some objective reflection from others, i decided that this poem is much more about me than about others, so i've decided to post it. also, because i might be a little proud of it...

"just biology"

outside our window
grew one of those epic, all-consuming trees,
casting shadows on our faces.

it was so much a part of our romantic landscape,
that it was easy to think that it grew
by virtue of our laughter,
the tears we shed,
and our long midnight sighs.

it was so easy to imagine that its photosynthesis ran,
off the light of our love.

so, imagine my surprise when,
after so many tree-filled days, we split.
but the tree didn't die.
there were no cracks in the heartwood
to remember us by.

after all, trees know a little more than we do
about weathering storms
and surviving the seasons.
that's not a metaphor.
that's just biology.

and i'm glad that tree lives,
now impersonal
and a part of someone else's story-
lit by someone else's love,
surviving someone else's regret.

and we lived too,
even when i thought we wouldn't.
hearts kept beating.
feet kept moving.
mine led me half-way across the country,
to almost make the same mistakes again.

it must be how i'm wired -
loving comes just a little bit harder,
filled with a little more doubt
than seems necessary.
but, some people get good, easy hearts,
and some people get challenging hearts.
it all depends what you're born into
and what you survive.
that's not a metaphor.
that's just biology.

Monday, February 1, 2010

top 30 things i've learned thus far...

my lovely, lovely roommate threw me a surprise birthday party this week, which is a whole other post unto it's own (i cannot even comprehend how much i'm loved. it threatens to overwhelm me every time i really look at it...).

but, my sweet and blunt friend jake asked "after 30 years, what do you have to say for yourself?" i didn't really know what to say and kinda floundered around until i found a kurt vonnegut quote that fit the occasion. but in reflecting on it that night, i thought it'd be good (for myself, if not for others) to write down what i've learned thus far.

here, in no particular order, are things i've discovered over 30 years on this little blue marble filled with wonderful and tragic things...

  1. pancakes for dinner always make a day feel special, even if it's just a tuesday.

  2. never listen to someone whose main argument boils down to "the human condition is sinful and you should always expect the worst." it's sometimes true but it's a bad operating system.

  3. i'd rather cry too much than too little.

  4. if you live through a hurricane, it's okay to hold a remembrance for your stuff. just remember the people, too.

  5. there's nothing you can't live through, except death. that's not as uplifting as it sounds.

  6. people will break your heart in new and different ways. that's not as sad as it sounds.

  7. the palestinian people deserve to be free in their homeland. i won't apologize for believing that.

  8. no matter how you prepare them, i probably am not going to eat beets.

  9. we live in a racist, sexist, classist society. i want to keep learning how i contribute to those systems and what i can do to end it.

  10. politicians are only very, very rarely agents of change. i was wrong about ralph nader, but still think i was right about dennis kucinich.

  11. love is a many-splendoured thing, with lots of pokey bits.

  12. things which will always make me happy: john steinbeck's "the moon is down", the movie "yellow submarine", american dream pizza, my family, radical Catholicism, community education, poetry slams.

  13. things which will always make me angry: oppression in all shapes and forms, that one time i saw white supremacists up close and didn't do enough, rampant consumerism, people who steal from nonprofits, aggressive drivers, shopping at IKEA, violence, badly-cooked vegetarian food.

  14. the answer to your prayers is generally you.

  15. few things are funnier than Kermit the Frog's angry face. see here for example.

  16. i will always, always, always let my children dress themselves.

  17. i'm afraid of getting arrested but am less and less willing to let that stand in the way

  18. my future husband will love the revolution, my dad's sense of justice, my sister's plays, my brothers' senses of humor, and my mac and cheese. the fact that such a person might not exist is only a small set-back.

  19. i can't conceptualize of a day when i don't think about my momma.

  20. intentional community makes more sense to me than the nuclear family. not necessarily for everyone, but certainly for me.

  21. i believe in the Trinity as fact. i understand this makes me crazy to some.

  22. i believe that a faith full of proscriptions, rigidity, and hate doesn't leave room for Christ.

  23. roadtrips are almost totally defined by their soundtracks.

  24. there is no food that isn't better with hot sauce. even cake.

  25. sometimes my low self-esteem really hurts people, which makes me feel worse, but is the best indicator that that dysfunction needs to change. now.

  26. i don't trust anyone who loved their high school years unconditionally or who got along with a stranger as their freshman roommate. that's just unnatural.

  27. do not pick your own nicknames. and if you do, don't choose Raven. or Kit-Kat. just take me word on that one.

  28. finger-painting is basically always awesome.

  29. people live in poverty because of choices i make, and we make. not because they're lazy or drunk or stupid. and, even if they were, we'd still have an intense moral obligation to give back what's been taken from them, in a monetary and spiritual sense.

  30. i might be doing okay with this one little life, but only because people better than myself are helping and loving me and have been for 30 years. thank you.

i guess that's what i know...