Saturday, August 24, 2013


passing through circles
of weddings and aging and death
i can’t tell where this one ends and
this one begins.

i see my son, my baby
reaching out to his lovely one
and grasping a hand that is not mine
and i decide that i love her too.

i see my mother
reaching out to memory
and grasping things from long ago
and i decide that she’s wiser than me.

i see my brother
reaching out to god
and grasping for something beyond this world
and i decide to someday ask the way
and follow.

these circles cross paths
in ways i cannot comprehend.

i reach out for something less dizzying

and grasp for something more linear

then decide to walk the intersections
as best I can.

Friday, August 23, 2013

just before jimmy died

just before jimmy died
his breathing was only
a habit-
his last addiction.

i whispered into his ear
"it's ok"
and i think i believed it.

i gasped in air with him
until the air stood still.

the moon that night was full and generous-
a quiet friend to keep us company
as we remembered.

i'm remembering now:
the heat rising from his body-
the way the color slipped away with his life-
the way he listened to my voice
from somewhere far away.

i told him where to turn
and he did not hesitate.

i wonder who will draw a map for me
to lead me away from my last breath?

i hope they know more than me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


A couple of weeks ago I started dipping my toes into art and it's a feverish need in me now. It's a rampage in my lungs and a shouting in my whole body. It's seeping out of my pores and dancing out of my fingertips. The silence and waiting have given way to a riot of color and form and words like a flood washing away my old life. All my secrets are playing with the instrument of my heart.

I don't have time to wash my hands before the next image begins to force it's way into the light.

What did I do with my life before now? I can't remember the time when fear left my paint and brushes sitting quietly collecting dust and regret.

This is good.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

of snow and guests and art

The birds are chattering outside. I think I heard one of them say, "What the hell? What's with all the snow?" Poor darlings. I can relate.

Although I'm not nearly as bitter and angry as I would normally be after a snow storm in April. I've had a string of house guests from all over the country lately. First Sarah came for a visit from Colorado. Then Jess came from Georgia. And this week I've shared my space with Christianne from Florida. They shared their shining hearts with me and I'm feeling all glowy and warm. How lucky am I?

It's the great irony in my life that I've connected so deeply with people over the internet, which I generally regard as one of the shallowest mediums ever created. How is it possible to find sisters and kindred spirits via electronic signals? Weird. But I'm very grateful. I'll say this once and you'll just have to trust me that it's real. I thank God for the internet.

I'm art journaling these days, and I composed this poem out of cut-out phrases from a magazine. When I'm surrounded by art supplies I feel like the world is all well and good. Or maybe the world isn't well and good but I'm well and good tucked inside of it. Anything is possible. Beauty is waiting to bust out of my fingers. God's breath is tickling the back of my neck. I'm listening to the sounds of my heart.

Spring is coming even when all I see is the whiteness of a winter that refuses to let go. This is true.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

where the story leads

I know I've been absent lately. So absent. If it makes you feel any better, I've been ignoring me and especially ignoring God too. So you're in good company.

A while back a friend of mine did the bravest thing I've ever witnessed. She sat down with her closest friends and pulled out pictures and stories and documents to share her life story with us. It was astounding. Although I'm a counselor, I don't know if I've ever seen someone share her life with such naked honesty and vulnerability. She was responding to something God was calling her to do, and I was among a very few who was called to bear witness. It undid me.

Her story touched a nerve somewhere deep in me, in places I don't like to visit. There was something familiar there. Something terrible and frightening. Something that made me feel angry and knife-edged scared. I knew she was going to share with us and I made a commitment to myself to be present while the words and images flowed over me. I stayed with her story even when it caught in my throat and made me feel like I was drowning. I listened even when something in me screamed to run away.

I'm still listening. I can't get the sounds out of my head.

And I feel grateful.

I'm not angry or resentful that I'm carrying her story around with me now. I love her for trusting me with it. It's something I take very seriously, this bearing witness business. But it's not a passive thing. It takes strength and courage and a willingness to go where the story leads you. I haven't done that very well. I've been afraid to go where this story is leading me.

I traveled far away to the cabin where I get my best work and thinking done. I'm here alone listening to the sounds that are pounding away in my head. I don't expect to get very far. I'm not naive about these things anymore. My story has been unraveling for many years, and it never unfurls easily. It's like a flag that was rolled up wet and thrown out in the snow. If you try to to open the folds before it's thawed, it will only damage the fabric. So I've come to a bitterly cold place on a frozen lake to thaw out a bit. God knows a thing or two about irony.

The breath of the Spirit is so warm. I can feel the droplets of grief pooling around my heart.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

snoozing in warm arms

It's as though some bored demon came upon my post last week and said, "Oh yeah? Let's see how that whole contentment thing works out for her when I really begin messing with her!" Virtually the day after my post my car pooped out and then Dave's truck took a nose dive. Our dogs started to have problems and we needed to take them both to the vet and the groomer (hefty bill). It cost me some cash to have my phone replaced. All of this resulted in a giant money drain at a time when our income is not exactly what it used to be.

You don't have to feel sorry for me though.

Normally you could reliably cue a feeling of panic in me and my complaining reflex would kick in with a vengeance. But that's not what has happened (thumbing my nose at aforementioned demon). It's not that I don't care that we've had to spend all of this money or that I've been inconvenienced with the whole car situation. It's just that I can't really bring myself to feel all that terrible or even give it a whole lot of space in my head. I keep noticing how great I have it. I recognize that I am overwhelmingly privileged that I have so many great things in my life and the cash to maintain them and people around me to support us if we fall. Even if all of these material things went away I'm still richer and luckier than most of the world. Even when things get ridiculously messed up, it's OK. I feel a little like Wyatt in that picture above. Just kind of snoozing in warm arms. It's good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

beneath the surface

spotted eagle ray off the pier
I returned last night from a week on a little island off the coast of Belize. It's snowing outside, blanketing the world in white. I'm wrapped in layers, and my sunburned back and insect-ravaged legs are tormenting me with itching that nothing seems to relieve. But it's OK. It's more than OK.

I'm content.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a story of beginnings and endings and new beginnings.

Living in Minnesota has bred a deep love in me for complaining. It's always too cold in the winter or too wet in the spring or too hot in the summer or too windy in the fall. I'm well-trained by the whispers of my ancestors to guard my heart and hope for little and expect the worst. It's quite a safe way to live, and it's a habit of perception that mostly goes unnoticed. This is my beginning, my place of comfort, my warm cocoon of a normal life.

When I left for Belize I was flooded with little disappointments and frustrations: a missing phone, a delayed flight, a later missed flight, alternative hotel accommodations. They all invited me in the first 24 hours to settle into a self-absorbed state of disturbance. But for some reason, I had no interest in that. I spent about an hour obsessing about my lost phone, and then I made a decision that is still impacting me today: I would not waste another moment worrying over something that I could not change. I declared an end to discontent. I let it all go and invited gratitude to make a home in me.

The island was colder and windier and rainier and cloudier than we were expecting. The sun stiffed us the entire time. When you looked out at the water it was mostly a reflection of the grey sky. I didn't care one bit. I grabbed a snorkel and dove off the peer and from here on out my words are going to be weak and thready compared to the reality they are pointing to. Beneath the surface of the water was a riot of color and movement and life that is still astounding me, and probably will until the day I die.

Fan coral welcomed me first, its movement demure, like a geisha, strong and shy. A spotted trunkfish flapped it's tiny fins furiously, propelling his bulky shape through the current like a miracle. Thousands of silver fish flashed a living symphony all around me. Stately Grey and Queen angelfish kissed the coral sending out a tiny cloud of debris of whatever did not suit them. I saw colors that do not exist in the frozen north except in longing dreams, the dreams that we struggle to hold onto when waking intrudes. There were sting rays and moray eels and parrotfish like clowns pocking the endless reefs. I drew in a long breath and pushed all the sorrow from my lungs. I floated wherever the waves felt like carrying me. I didn't want anything else.

I didn't want anything else.

Those are strange words for me. I'm always wanting, even when what I'm wanting is peace. But for a little while on a faraway reef in a foreign country, I was completely satisfied.

And for some reason, I'm still satisfied.

I'm peeking beneath the surface of things that seem dull and grey to find the life underneath. I'm letting the current take me back to my life in new ways. I won't let myself be fooled by the color of the sky reflecting off the sea of snow. There's beauty out there, so available, just under the places I've always known. It's obscene that I've made a home on this beautiful reef in the North, and it's only just occurred to me that there's something worth seeing under the water of my normal life.

Perhaps this is me dying or perhaps this is me being born again. I can't tell. All I really know is that I'll never care as much about a lost phone or a cloudy day. None of that matters so much anymore. I'm glad to be breathing in the outrageous sea of blessing right here in this moment.