prayer

mary / she moves behind me / she leaves her fingerprints everywhere / everytime the snow drifts, everytime the sand shifts / even when the night lifts / she’s always there … mary / you’re covered in roses / you’re covered in ruin / you’re covered in secrets / you’re covered in treetops / covered in birds / covered in a million songs without any words (patty griffin)

wpid-img_20150521_214608.jpg

sitting in wisdom literature class at roberts wesleyan college, then professor martin predicted mitch and i would get married. or, really, he used us as an example of the confusion that occurs in prayer and hearing god’s wisdom.

mitch and i hadn’t starting dating at the time, and knew one another only as acquaintances. dr. martin pointed out that it’d be a bit crazy if mitch approached me and said: “god told me we should get married.” my response – and i agreed that it would be my response – would have been something like: “well, god didn’t tell me that!”

and so it goes that hearing god’s wisdom and call is tricky business.

for lent this year, i re-tried on extemporaneous prayer as a regular discipline. i’ve seen and experienced non-prayer-book prayer as powerful, life-giving, and eye-opening. but i’ve also seen and experienced it as manipulative, showy, and shallow. and so with those memories and anne lamont’s help, thanks, wow, i began my experiment.

now several weeks after lent, i’m happy to report that praying has added a new level of beauty and terror to my life. and i am grateful for it.

the rawness i feel admitting to god – and therefore to myself – that i don’t have life figured out is beautiful and freeing. i believe god speaks to me through my gut, my intuition. when i follow my gut, i can be talked out of it by myself or others. when i follow god through my gut, i have a sense of rightness that is downright terrifying. powerful, but terrifying. and i’m still not sure what to do with it.

between meetings in los angeles earlier this week, i found myself in the sanctuary of st. john’s cathedral. cathedral spaces and wild spaces do the same thing for my soul. i feel a sense of openness, vitality, vulnerability, and rightness. my time at st. john’s was no different. being open to god, my gut, and my intuition makes me feel vulnerable. what if i’m wrong? what if how i feel god moving contradicts someone else’s intuition? why does vulnerability feel so terrifying yet open up such amazing possibilities?

and then i read about peace.

and then i wandered and took some pictures.

wpid-img_20150521_214539.jpg

and then i shed a tear for ella.

wpid-img_20150521_214519.jpg

and then i left, feeling tired, powerful, and beautiful.

for mother’s day: the gardener

the gardener (mary oliver, a thousand mornings)

have i lived enough?
have i loved enough?
have i considered right action enough? have i
come to any conclusion?
have i experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

i say this, or perhaps i’m just thinking it.
actually, i probably think too much.

then i step out into the garden
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

i know i share, “like,” and recommend some pretty angsty things on and around mother’s day (like this, this, and this). but the truth is, i do delight in homemade cards and crafts, mother’s day tea at school, and the way the world around me stops to honor the women who bore them (i know, beauty and terror, right?).

(at the mother’s day tea eliot beamed telling me how the cucumbers and dill in the sweet little sandwiches he helped make were from the school garden he helped grow. that and the way he and his friends doted on james were the sweetest things ever.)

IMG_20150511_195251

in reflecting on child loss with a friend who (unfortunately) shares a similar story, we both regularly yearn to have our ignorance back. like mary oliver says, “i probably think too much.” and so i went to the garden.

last year i double dug a good bit of my garden space. eliot and i tried starting seeds at least twice after that but forgot to water them and never got anything in the soil.

PhotoGrid_1431404440246

i’ve been talking about getting plants in the ground this spring for weeks. one day after mother’s day, it happened.

IMG_20150511_195335

best mother’s day gift ever. well, gardening, some sweet earrings a friend sent, and some reminiscing with eliot at breakfast this morning about how we used to talk about how ella would have liked watching birds with us when he was 3.

tonight i’ve got seeds started in egg cartons on my kitchen counter, a few plants trying to spread their roots in the earth, and dirt under my fingernails. i am sufficiently happy and grateful.

IMG_20150511_195404

IMG_20150511_195428

micro-adventure

sometimes, part 4 (mary oliver)

instructions for living a life.
pay attention.
be astonished.
tell about it.

in the spirit of this blog post, here’s the real story of our micro-adventure on monday.  i try to stay away from play-by-play blog posts (because, frankly, they’re usually boring), but …

last year for eliot’s spring break, my mother, my cousin, eliot, and i drove to saguaro national park for a couple nights of camping.  in my insanity eagerness and optimism, i decided this national park/spring break combo ought to be a tradition.  (and then i had a baby.)  at first with disappointment, and during/after with relief, eliot, james, and i opted this year for a much more sane local option: anza-borrego state park.

(last year m was helping his recently retired mother move.  this year spring break aligned with holy week – not exactly a good time for a priest to go out of town.)

our first task was to set up the tent.  this went delightfully easily, even in the 95 degree heat.  eliot was helpful as helpful as a 6-year-old can be and james sat happily in the stroller i’d brought along mostly to have somewhere to put him down.  then, while i started dinner, eliot entertained his brother.

wpid-img_20150330_180132.jpg

perhaps my favorite picture of the bunch:

wpid-img_20150331_145915.jpg

the sling came with instructions never to cook when carrying a baby.  whatevs.

wpid-img_20150401_174206.jpg

sunset and the desert blooms really were stunning:

wpid-img_20150331_133609.jpg

i grabbed firewood on my way out of camp stevens to make a s’mores fire, but apparently picked up wood that hadn’t dried yet (hard to believe in this drought).  thankfully i still had the remains of the summer camp mailing in the jeep!

wpid-img_20150401_174243.jpg

even with the extra paper i couldn’t get a fire started (sorry, ego), so we made s’mores over the fire made by the paper and eliot happily enjoyed eating dirt raw marshmallows:

wpid-img_20150401_174306.jpg

after dessert we crawled into the tent, at which point i realized i’d forgotten my contact case, flashlights, and eliot’s melatonin.  he’s taken a melatonin gummy for years to help him get to sleep.  sometimes i wonder if it’s really just a placebo, and monday was a good, healthy reminder that: no, not a placebo.  yes, he needs the gummy.

the other time we use melatonin gummies is if he wakes in the night, which he does on occasion.  about 4am eliot woke for god-knows-why and he played quietly for two hours with these glowsticks in his sleeping bag.

wpid-img_20150401_174328.jpg

i’d say the biggest challenge of this whole little adventure had to do with taking an infant, not yet sleeping through the night, camping.  i bed-share half the night at home and knew i’d sleep with him all night in the tent, but wasn’t as prepared as i should have been for the sore back that followed from the combination of nursing for food and comfort + a camping mattress.  but when i woke up to this, all was mostly forgiven:

wpid-img_20150401_174408.jpg

wpid-img_20150331_132124.jpg

wpid-img_20150331_145814.jpg

we took a short hike after breakfast up palm canyon.  thankfully, because of the heat, my sore back, and not having as much water as i was comfortable with (we passed folks with no water), we turned around just in time for eliot’s lack of sleep to fizzle his brain catch up to him.  it took us twice as long to get back.  he wanted me to carry his backpack.  i told him i would if he carried james …

wpid-img_20150401_174509.jpg

a snake, a ladybug, a handful of lizards, and no bighorn sheep later, we made it back to our campsite to pack up and head to town for brunch.

wpid-img_20150401_174446.jpg

wpid-img_20150331_133931.jpg

annoyed that i wouldn’t take a picture of any of the lizards on the trail (he has yet to learn about shutter speed), we snapped this shot of a lizard in the coffee shop.  he was happy, i was exhausted happy, james was oblivious (and happy).  then we went home and took naps.

wpid-img_20150401_174531.jpg

the end.

he may have it

in honor of play week …

wpid-imag6562_1.jpg

william (mary oliver)

now there’s william.  he comes pecking, like a bird, at my
heart.  his eyebrows are like the feathers of a wren.  his ears
are little seashells.

i would keep him always in my mind’s eye.

soon enough he’ll be tall, walking and coversing; he’ll have
ideas, and a capricious will; the passions will unfold in him,
like greased wheels, and he will leap forward upon them.

who knows, maybe he’ll be an athlete, quick and luminous;
or a musician, bent like a long-legged pin over the piano’s
open wing; or maybe he will stand day after day over a drafts-
man’s desk, making something exquisite and useful — a tower
or a bridge.

whatever he does, he’ll want the world to do it in.  maybe,
who knows, he’ll want this very room which, only for con-
venience, i realize, i’ve been calling mine.

i feel myself begin to wilt, like an old flower, weak in the
stem.

but he is irresistible!  whatever he wants of mine — my room,
my ideas, my glass of milk, my socks and shirts, my place in
line, my portion, my world — he may have it.

wpid-imag6576_1.jpg

this one has stolen my heart entirely.  i’m not usually one for mushiness, but …

the smiling and the cooing and the rubbing his eyes when he’s tired and the waking up next to me willing to stare out at the trees until i’ve come to.  yes he cries, yes he interrupts work for feeding, yes my back hurts from the co-sleeping.  but oh my, is he ever irresistible.  whatever he wants of mine, he can have it.

wpid-imag6567_1.jpg

(octopus knit by delaney)

hurried

this world (mary oliver)

i would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
but it seems impossible.
whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
the tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open
and becomes a star.

the ants bore into the peony bud and there is a the dark
pinprick well of sweetness.
as for the stones on the beach, forget it.
each one could be set in gold.
so i tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
were singing.

and the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.
and that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
hurried to hear it.

as for spiders, how the dew hangs on their webs
even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
so fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
so fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
locked up in gold.

turns out going back to work has been more challenging than i anticipated.

it’s not that i don’t like what i do, although some tasks do feel trite as compared to caring for my baby.  i believe wholeheartedly in the organization, in our “peaceful place apart” and our sustainable practices and in offering a bit of ourselves and our mission to folks who come by or who we visit.  i believe in the work of the church and in transforming lives and in “openness, gratitude, connection, and wonder.” in fact, these things drive my personal life as much as my vocational one.

but i’m stretched – or stretching myself – a bit more than i am flexible.  and i’m tired.  m is a wonderful father and i don’t (or rarely) doubt his ability to care for, raise, and play with the boys, even if i would do it differently.  i expect it’s normal (i didn’t transition back to work with eliot), but i want my maternity back.  i want to be able to keep the kitchen clean, do laundry, sew, make faces at james, play games with eliot, and take care of myself by hiking or jogging or yoga.  but many of these are the things that have been squeezed out in my hurried, back-to-work state.

(i know i shouldn’t care about a clean house, but i do.)

and then enter, with the busy-ness and the lack of time to be more physically active, the awful curse of vanity and wishing my body were different.  two days ago in frustration i littered our closet floor with clothes i wished fit.  today, i’ve discovered the wonders of m’s flannel shirts: over-sized, soft, and with sleeves that are long enough (for me, not for m).

i’ve been getting daily emails, and most days responding to them on instagram, from the society of st. john the evangelist through lent.  each day they send a video and the transcript, a word to reflect on, and a question to answer.  each week has a theme, all centered around time.

eesh.  it’s been pretty close to home in the most wonderful but challenging of ways.

last week focused on prayer and i was reminded of my yearning to re-learn to pray extemporaneously.  i adore the episcopal church and the prayer book has guided me and given me words when i’ve had none. but i’ve allowed the beauty and ritual of collects and liturgy to replace intimacy and relationship and i miss being able to talk in a casual and raw way with god.

this week the topic is work.  the question for today is “what limits would give you life?” and the reflection word is boundaries.  brother curtis almquist says:

for some of you probably what most gets in the way of your life is this: being requested to be all over the place at one time without there being any boundaries on your life. how do you live within the constraints of time? the old monastic wisdom is: freedom is found in the context of limitation. how can you limit your access to things and others’ access to you? otherwise time is a tyranny and not a blessed thing.

time is a tyranny and not a blessed thing.

wait … with boundaries and limits, time can be a blessed thing!  time for hiking. time for games.  time for working.  time for making faces.  time for dishes.

time to listen to the beautiful and momentous silence.

Daffodils

coffee

i’ve been wanting to write for a while now, but simply have no words largely due, i think, to a delightful sense of contentment.  perhaps next time i write i’ll be more focused – hopefully around an oliver poem, although i’m hoping to broaden my poetry to rumi and am open to suggestions as to where to start.

IMG_20150213_104428

if i were to run into you on the street, i’d invite you to coffee to catch up, and then our conversation might end up heading in any one of these directions:

lent starts next week.  last year i read ‘biblical womanhood’ by rachel held evans.  this year i’m considering some sort of diet (an admittedly vain attempt at losing weight – or at least my belly and extra arm girth – shrouded in a spiritual discipline); taking facebook off my phone, thereby eliminating the primary way i pass time while nursing – i’d replace it with a book or some other way of passing time that feels more honorable or holy to me; reading about mary, which i’m especially interested in after mitch introduced me to this song this morning; participating in either ssje or the methodist church‘s lenten photo a day; or something i haven’t thought of.  i’m open to suggestions.

for whatever reason, folks feel oddly compelled to post oodles of knitting patterns and links to mary oliver goings-on on my facebook wall.  most recently was this on point interview i highly recommend.

i started reading this anne lamont book a couple weeks ago and have rejuvenated daily prayer.  it’s been a long time since i’ve read lamont and i’ve enjoyed the reminder of how much i appreciate her rawness.  once upon a not-too-distant-time i woke every morning for yoga and the morning version of daily devotions for individuals and families with added collects, but got away from it when guilt, stress, and anxiety replaced calm, ritual, and connection.  i’m taking a slightly different approach that allows more flexibility, and i can say that i’m finding calm, ritual, and connection again, particularly through praying daily for eliot, ella, and james, my marriage, and my godsons: tristan and toby.

i’ve got an itch to sew, so if anyone has any ideas for something simple i could make for me, my boys, or you with the fabric i already have let me know.

we’re (successfully, so far) working on finding a rhythm of wake and sleep for mr. job and it seems to be working.  he’s taken 3 hour naps every day this week plus lots of little ones and i am eternally grateful (and feeling a bit accomplished).  i hear there’s a book out there about it, but we’re winging it based solely on the premise that babies can handle being awake for only about 90 minutes at a time.  a shout-out to krista for reminding me of the concept this weekend.

i continue to be smitten with the baby and have found that loving both of my boys with equal fervor isn’t quite as hard as i feared.  it helps that they’re so wildly different.  here they are at the safari park’s bird show, perhaps our favorite thing in southern california.  (we’ve even shazamed and downloaded the showcase music so we can rock out to it in the car.)

wpid-imag6149.jpg

next week marks the last of my maternity leave.  sigh.  we’ll see how the transition goes.  before i “left” for leave (left is in quotes because i still live at camp) a colleague remarked in a conversation we were having about how calm i felt going into my last weeks of pregnancy that he’d always experienced me as an anxious presence.  anxious is a very pejorative word for me and not one i’ve received feedback about personally, so his comment has stayed with  me.  when returning to work i hope to investigate if his perception resonates with others and, if so, what being less guarded and anxious might look or feel like for me and for others.

between a meteorologist friend’s post on facebook this morning apologizing for the false hope for rain in socal this winter and an npr story about an epic drought pattern to commence about 2050 that i can’t find the link to, as well as a general feeling of epic distance between my body and my soul in the adirondacks, this mary oliver poem i’ll leave you with is resonating in a tremendous way these days.

of what surrounds me (mary oliver)

whatever it is i am saying, i always
need a leaf or a flower, if not an
entire field.  as for sky, i am so wildly
in love with each day’s inventions, cool blue
or cat gray or full
of the ships of clouds, i simply can’t
say whatever it is i am saying without
at least one skyful.  that leaves water, a
creek or a well, river or ocean, it has to be
there.  for the heart to be there.  for the pen
to be poised.  for the idea to come.

love us if you can

mangrovethere are a couple places around the house i’ve got collections of mary oliver stashed to read to myself or to job while nursing.  i’ve read blue horses a handful of times now, and each time i’m especially struck by “the mangroves.”

the mangroves (by mary oliver)

as i said before, i am living now
in a warm place, surrounded by
mangroves.  mostly i walk beside
them, they discourage entrance.
the black oaks and the pines
of my northern home are in my heart,
even as i hear them whisper, “listen,
we are trees too.” okay, i’m trying.  they
certainly put on an endless performance
of leaves.  admiring is easy, but affinity,
that does take some time.  so many
and so leggy and all of them rising as if
attempting to escape this world which, don’t
they know it, can’t be done.  “are you
trying to fly or what?” i ask, and they
answer back, “we are what we are, you
are what you are, love us if you can.”

i’m not sure if it’s the connection to trees she experiences that resonates most with me, or the way she seems to long to be present both in the presence of the mangroves and her native oaks and pines.  i do so miss the diversity and colors of the eastern forests – both the fall colors and the vibrancy of bark like birch – and will always feel like a bit of a black sheep anywhere else.  but sense of place has as much to do with where we are as what we’re doing.

motherhood – stay-at-home-motherhood – might just be my oaks and pines.  it seems crazy to suggest since it took me 30+ years to even desire it and i still don’t itch to hold any baby but my own, but there is a rightness for me in devoting myself to protecting, nurturing, and providing for these boys i so love.  out-of-the-home work, then, would be my mangroves.  also beautiful, also rewarding, also important and admirable.  and regarding where i am now, i have come to have quite an affinity for camp and the people i live and work with.

i don’t dwell on it much because it takes away from my hear and now, but as my maternity leave comes to an end in a few weeks, i anticipate needing to think and process how i might be present with both worlds again.  “we are what we are, you are what you are, love us if you can.”