Saturday, August 31, 2013

On Reading

Too bad that authors can't stand behind readers listening. My partner laughs out loud, I sometimes cry, and I've heard people speak to the author, " You've got to be kidding . Why did you kill off my favorite character?"

Reading memoirs or real life adventure yarns captivate me and if well written create a reality that absorbs me into the narrative.

Reading is that activity that releases me from just playing one part-- the world is open. It all depends upon the book I select.

Friday, August 30, 2013

If and Then

Then Gideon said to God,
"Do not be angry with me.
Let me make just one more request.
Allow me one more test with the fleece,
but this time make the fleece dry and let
the ground be covered with dew."
—Judges 6: 39

Yes, as one commentator wrote — it wasn't that Gideon doubted that God was going to use him to save Israel, he just needed reassurance that it was God's directive—not his own. That's a logical and clear explanation for Gideon's request. It's an if and then event.

But are we always so logical? One commentator states that Gideon faith was weak and he kept asking for yet another proof. Another commentator questions whether anyone who puts out the "fleece" is mature in their faith.

How about human frailty? How about the need to know—how about the need to hear or see God's hand working?

Maybe what's needed is a release from doubt, a reassurance that all is going to fine.

We all have if and then moments. If I do this then this will happen.

We enter into dialogue with others, "I'll do this if you'll do this."

But Gideon's fleece is different—it's asking God to prove His/Her power. It's like saying—prove it to me, assure me, comfort me, surround my doubt with assurances.

I recall when I was nine and my mother became quite ill—no one knew if she'd pull through. We were six states away from home and when the ambulance came in the middle of the night I was terrified. I recall sitting in my bed and thinking that the only option I had was to talk to God. Everyone had left and I was alone for an hour.

We weren't a religious family and I didn't know how to pray, but I had seen movies and noticed that people got down on their knees and rested their folded hands on the bed. If you haven't any experience talking to God and no blue print on how to proceed, you just begin talking. I started by saying Dear God, my name is Linda.

I expect that I prayed an if and then prayer—offering up everything from cleaning my room to washing windows.

Years later I read about Gideon and knew that my doubts and worries had been surrounded by God's assurances that night. My mother recovered. It took me a number of years to realize that what God offered wasn't assurance of recovery, but an assurance of being there—loving and supportive.

I like the fact that Gideon's fleece is one of the stories I can claim.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


out of your hands
can't control the outcome

others define the way
all you can do is offer up a prayer

that's enough
to release fear
from entering

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Changing Perceptions

When I taught, the year began in late August or early September—despite the fact that greeting cards and popular sentiment chose January 1st. When the yellow busses rolled out, the year set out on its march toward June when the year ended. July and August—those months represented summer, a hiatus before it all started again.

For the first few years after I stopped teaching and moved in another direction, I still adhered to that schedule. I even found myself parading down the aisles of local stationery stores— purchasing a new notebook, a few new pens. I did transfer my allegiance to Moleskin notebooks.

A new notebook represented an untrodden beginning—clean, no blots, smudges, or crossed out lines. My new pen—with countless possibilities within its cartridge—contained the nucleus of ideas for stories.

I did eventually learn that ghost images appear on pristine pages unless you clean up the smudges and blots. White Out and erasers aren't sufficient.

Today when I spotted several busses, I realized that I hadn't been to a stationery store within the last week. A seismic shift.

So now I am released from one way of calculating time—

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

After Reading the Newspaper

Dreams are constrained and dependent
on the rendering of the translator.

Dreams disrupt a linear story,
force a change in perception,
set forth metaphors as markers
and objects as symbols
demanding deciphering

Last night's dinner party
took place before the sun
set its place. Twenty guests
and chairs for eighteen,
cutlery for half that group

A peafowl wore a bow tie
and served water into fluted glasses
The guest of honor spoke Pig Latin
A cacophony of babble
passed for social talk

Who understood, but no one listened
Those who had implements ate
Those who had glasses drank
The rest retreated and stared
and waited for the time
to release an answer

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Local Conundrum

An dtigeann tu?
Do you understand?

I've noticed that certain phrases bear a greater weight in another language. They carry themselves with authority—even if I can't twist my tongue around a pronunciation.

Reading this phrase in a book and the context in which one character said it to another caught my attention. A translation wasn't needed—although I did check out my own understanding.

Today I asked for stamps at the local post office.

"We're out of stamps."

"How can you be out of stamps. This is a post office."

"I have two left. Do you want them?"

"How can you be out of stamps?"

"Come back tomorrow. We may have some then."

Under my breath I muttered, "You can't be out of stamps. This is a post office.—An dtigeanne tu?"

Once releasing that phrase I felt better about our interchange.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Psalm 19:14

 Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 KJV

We're surrounded with words—politicians waver between specious utterances to sincere, humble verbiage. Our own words span across a crevasse filled with places to slip.

When I read this psalm I linger over the poetry— what a beautiful line, "In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun."

And when I keep reading to the end, the last verse, I read those words that I must apply to myself.

What does it mean to take responsibility for words? To think about the reaction to what you say—and to realize that words once released cannot be taken back.

Suppose you could collect all the words you want back and put then in a sack and bury the sack. I expect each letter would wiggle out, find the others and create the buried word.

So I held back what I wanted to say, but I thought it? Almost the same—not quite, but almost.

This doesn't mean that words have to be mealy mouthed or saccharine or never take issue with someone or something—

To be acceptable—fitting.

To pray this verse I add —help me. Tap me on the shoulder as a reminder.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

When to Let Go

To release something means to let it go.Just liberate it and move on.

"Re" means again or again and again.

To lease is to rent or to hire or even to charter for a period of time.

To re-lease means to commit for a designated period of time.

After the time elapses you are liberated, freed of the obligation.

One doesn't need to be released over and over.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Take Care

abundans acutely non nocet
one can never be too careful

Reading the headlines gives me a glimpse of what may or may not be the real story-- if in fact anyone knows the truth. All that the headline does is grab me by the throat and implore me to read further. The tabloid newspapers create a voyeuristic drama out of headlines. They lure a reader on by promising a plethora of scintillating gossip way beyond the average person's personal knowledge.

Once a month Marcel, the eighth grade science teacher, brought a tabloid paper into the teacher's room-- usually at lunch time. He sat down at the head of a long table and began to read the lead story. Soon we all set to discussing the merits of the piece and the possibility of some shred of reality to the story.

My favorite story, which always seems to have as its setting some far off distant location, concerned a woman who ate too many carrots. According to the written story the woman turned bright orange. In fact she turned as bright as cadmium orange. The story set us off on the possibilities inherent in turning the color of other vegetables-- papaya green or purple grape. We all scoffed at the vision of an orange female.

I thought, " abundans acutely non nocet."

It seems that you might turn a yellow-orange if you eat too many carrots--or foods that contain lots of vitamin A.

Even the tabloids sometimes release the truth, but told slant. I checked and indeed people turned orange or yellow orange-- usually on their palms, after consuming large amounts for long periods of time-- but no one seemed to turn neon orange. Too many sweet potatoes can also leave you with a tint.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Erasure of a Pencil Mark

a pedibus usque ad caput
from feet to head

Years ago I pressed my body up against the bedroom door. My mother held a pencil tight against my scalp, moved the point back and forth and penciled a mark on the door.

She opened her sewing kit, removed a tape measure and said, " You grew an inch since we last measured. Soon you'll be taller than both of us." My father's height stopped at five feet three inches, two inches taller than my mother. No one in my extended family exceeded five feet four inches.

Every six months another pencil mark appeared on the door until I reached a stopping point when two pencil marks overlapped. For years I wore that height. In time I realized that I spent a good deal of time staring up at people.

When you reach adulthood there are no more pencil lines. Even a yearly check-up doesn't include a height check.

Today was different. The nurse said, " I almost forgot to measure your height."

So I stood on the scale and she drew out a long metal tape measure, released it until it reached an appropriate stopping point.

" Stand tall," she said, " shoulders back."

With those words she placed something on my head-- just like my mother's pencil and announced the result.

" How many inches?"I asked.

" She responded."

I lost an inch, a real loss that you can't replace.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Via Negativa

a way of describing something
by saying what it is not...
Oxford Dictionary

not hovering around
or forcing you to change
not trailing behind
picking up the pieces
just standing around waiting
you heard the spiel
not pushing you to decide
not giving up on you

not giving only one chance
or leaving you in the dust
or handing out chits, vouchers
that run out if you wait too long

not promising to release you
from ever having any troubles
not leaving you alone to figure
everything out, not hiding
behind the trees
or under the bed
or walking away when things
get tangled or out of focus
not keeping my hands quiet
when I could hold your hand
and walk with you

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


moving a plant
from one spot to another
disturbs the equilibrium

our daisy plant wilts
drops petals, loses color

moving brings loss
of the familiar
a release of
what is known
in exchange
for uncertainty

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gideon's Fleece

Suppose we could know what was around the corner—were prepared for all possibilities —I wonder about the changes. Perhaps, like Faust, we'd barter. Perhaps we'd take chances. Maybe we'd forge ahead and not think of the view around the corner.

I'd implore God to think of all there was to do and offer to lend a hand—
"God," I'd say, " Look at how I'm busy reading your Word, even learned some scripture."
"Lord," I'd say, " Read my resume—a couple of glitches, but you've forgiven those."

"God," I'd say, " Even though I don't know what's ahead, there's a lot to do."

It's a release to think of the work to do— and not think about the road that's curving out of sight.

"God," If you don't mind I'm going to mix in some light reading."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

and then...

Because I agreed to lead a writing workshop in church Because we'll write spiritual memoirs or poetry or short stories or even six word pieces or flash fiction or words without form, or midrash Because we're moved to think when reading a story Because telling a story about redemption without spelling it out, just letting the characters carry the tale means digging deep within myself, seeking to find words I began to read books, short stories, scripture—looking for the thread, the way in to imagination To write a midrash requires reading every word of text—Noah builds an ark with detailed instructions, I stop short, a pause—what does Noah's wife think She's the missing person, the unseen, invisible presence Perhaps I'll write her story or the story of a wife whose life ebbs away as the other, Noah's leave taking may be an epigram, or just a place I rest It may be the springboard for a memory, a time when a voice remained silent. It's the silent places that beg for the release of a story It's the spaces between words, the pause between inhaling and exhaling, the chrysalis and the butterfly's birth

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mayim Chayim

Mayim Chayim
Hebrew:Living Waters

Minnows disturbed the calm waters,
moving quickly, changing direction
I sought words that spoke

A child splashed in a puddle
left after a downpour,
mud spattered patterns, a psychedelic response
I read between the lines seeking answers

We borrowed a rowboat one afternoon
only to get snared by lily pod roots
Contained in one spot until we pulled free
we sang camp songs and ate chips
I inhaled parables, waiting
for the stories to release their meanings

I tasted rain

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Universe in a Walk

I watched a grasshopper,
a harmony
of legs moving
in an arranged symphony

It reached the edge
of a wall
and disappeared
from my view

I released my breath

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Rallying Cry

Two months ago I subscribed to two weighty magazines because their offers of reduced rates seduced me. Now both dense magazines arrive within days of one another.

On the positive side -- every article is written in depth. Pages and pages of depth. I placed the magazines on the dining room table and I try and read an article with my breakfast cereal. This morning I read a long article about Oppenheimer. I missed the sports section of my local newspaper.

Then I noted that most of the articles were written by men. In fact twenty-seven writers were listed and only one woman wrote an article.

Should I write the magazine a letter requesting the return of my money-- prorated for the issue I received?

I checked out my other magazine and found a fairly equal division of men and women writers. In fact when I looked at several other magazines in the house they all had managed to find male and female writers.

Despite the preponderance of too many words in each article, I couldn't release myself from the notion that I had to read the articles. Knowing what I know I am taking a political stance-- as they used to say forty years ago- the personal is political.

With that feminist rallying cry I freed myself from the task of reading any more issues. Some days you need to take a stand.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Being Ready

Waiting for the answer to a question
Waiting to understand the why
as if knowing changes anything

Waiting to see a high wire aerialist
cross the Grand Canyon
on a two inch cable

Waiting for the bread to rise
Waiting for the oven to heat
Waiting on line

Waiting to make sense of why
he crossed the canyon
with winds spinning across the gorge


let go of expectations
release your own endings
and wait

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Invitation

emeth in Hebrew means:
as spoken

Suppose I went backwards
and changed those places
where spoken words
lost their sureness
where they faltered,
stumbled, and slipped
into a crevasse

Suppose I listed the words
that strained
the way we heard
one another

Do you think we could
start over again
release the past,
seek emeth

Monday, August 12, 2013


poems are polysemous
-- Arthur Sze
" multiple meanings"

Words wear nuances
changing meanings,
and intentions. The marrow
of a phrase, a sentence,
even a single syllable word
shifts, balancing spirit
with a stony insistence
on a literal stance.

To release the intent
of what is written
requires a willingness
to dig into the structure,
taste the words, let the
sounds penetrate, rubbing
away the easy definitions.

When my father was dying
we never spoke the truth
even when it hung in the air.
When I kissed him goodbye
he called me back into the room, held
my hand and again said goodbye.
No other words, but their
meaning altered.
Without adding more words,
or changing inflections
I heard the finality.

It's the way of words

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Something for free is so alluring. I, along with thousands of others, was offered 101 free photo prints. This offer sent me to my digital collection of photos. First, I needed to spend time discarding photos that I'd never use.

Culling through months of photos I selected 89 pictures. Did I want or need 89 photos? No, but even that wasn't 101 and I was offered all those prints for free.

How many photos did I want of a frog hanging out in a pond? Could I create greeting cards of some of the photos?

Perhaps the close-up of bees circling a pink flower or the ant walking on a lily bud or the caterpillar feasting on a cherry tree leaf transformed into smart cards illustrates creativity. Of course there's the extreme close-up of a grasshopper.

After an hour of culling through my last six months of photos and after the 89 were targeted, I moved them to the desktop, put them in a folder, and opened up the site offering me my free prints.

At first all went well, but then I discarded photos before the site had uploaded my photos. Since I'm the only one allowed to enter my trash bin the upload ran into a glitch.

No problem. I went into the trash and removed the photos. But I didn't really know what had been uploaded before I trashed photos. So I simply downloaded and downloaded dozens of photos.

No problem. I'd delete doubles. At this point I was working against the clock. Everything had to be completed by midnight or like Cinderella the world changes-- my free prints then cost ten cents apiece.

As I began to delete, everything slowed up until I deleted one too many photos and I was greeted by a message -- error. The type of error that refuses to relinquish its primacy. No matter what I did the error message persisted. I envisioned some sort of intelligence telling me that I could not bully my way beyond that injunction.

Finally I reached that place where I needed to release my desire for 101 free photo prints. What did I learn? To quote E.M. Forster, Unless we remember, we cannot understand.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Tonight the sun disappeared
earlier than expected
and released a darkened sky

Tonight I stopped to read the stickers on someone's car--
Wear Wool So No Sheep Are Left Behind
Babies Are Born To Be Breast Fed

Tonight the waitress brought the wrong meal
Tonight I watched a woman knitting in a restaurant
while waiting for her dinner

Tonight a Harvest Moon hung in the sky
Tonight I wondered about tomorrow
and the tomorrow's to come
Tonight I thought about how life pirouettes
through the days, reckless with time
never able to hold the days
to stay the calendar

Friday, August 09, 2013

Knowing the Endings

you need days like this,
a day when nothing intrudes
upon your stack of books-
you move between a circus
love story, biblical midrash,
and a blood and mayhem mystery
while the rain continues
giving an excuse

you know the tragic ending for
the two circus performers
who tease fate
who test the limits of risk

you think of those spaces
in the story of Lot's wife-
why does she need to turn
who is there left behind

who did the deed
will he release the hostage
before it's too late

tomorrow when the sun returns
the high flyers will wait on the ropes
Lot's wife will be a pillar of salt
and I may rewrite the mystery

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Listen to My Silence

what I want to pray
lodges under
my ribs, insulated
from all eyes

if I give words to my prayers
it clothes them with bones and sinews

tonight I'll release my words
into the hollows

please make room
for my prayer

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


You only need a scrap of time
to move toward God.
—14th century unnamed monk, The Cloud of Unknowing

A scrap of time, a small space
an interval, a quieting down
of the noise—just enough
to allow the unexpected
to enter into view

the time to sit and wait
to reflect upon the sound
of silence, to release
all sense of how
you'll meet

to walk within
that scrap of time
in delight

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

U Turns

And how should a beautiful, ignorant stream
of water know it heads for an early release.
--Carl Sandburg

 Consult a date book, check a calendar, and events penciled in may happen. The notation, like a string tied around a finger acts as a reminder. This will happen barring any unexpected occurrences. Changes suggest writing in pencil. Ink assumes assurances that can't be assumed.

The future remains murky-- a Siren luring us with promises. Fractured stories appear in the newspaper each day. Tomorrows assured yesterday altered today.

Or dead ends changing direction and opening up spaces never imagined.

A few words uttered and the trajectory of one's life altered.  A step off a curb and everything changes. 

A terrorist bomb targets people whose calendars didn't include becoming part of someone else's story line.

An ordinary day and unexpected events spin out a new scenario. 

Expect the unexpected and always use a pencil.

Monday, August 05, 2013

It's a Promise

 Release Your Holy Spirit within me.
--Scripture Union

some folks wait
for a sign
that the Holy Spirit
took up residence
and planned to stay
some folks say
that they've never
been introduced
some folks simply
listen for the breath
then they know for sure

some days I think
someone's looking
over my shoulder
some days I think
I feel a twinge
other days I don't
wait and listen
just move along
on my own
some days
I feel full

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Gift

When something or someone intrudes upon your order and insists you follow them to something that's a wonderful discovery, you can turn down the invitation or follow.

Today a woman wearing a long paisley skirt and a different patterned paisley blouse simply said, " I took a walk yesterday with a man who knows butterflies, caterpillars, and the hiding places of small insects. I can show you four huge caterpillars on a cherry tree."

We followed her down the path to a cherry tree.
" Look up and see if you can find them."
The green leaves acted as a perfect camouflage for the green caterpillars. With a few hints we discovered two of the longest, plumpest caterpillars.

She couldn't recall its proper name so flew off to her car to find the paper with the proper name. Meanwhile we snapped photo after photo.

" They are cecropia moth caterpillars-- the largest North American Moth with a wingspan that often reaches six inches across."

" I thought," she said, " that someone should take photos."

Then she turned and walked back on the same path. I hope she found the tiny insects hidden on the underside of leaves-- something else she learned from yesterdays's guide.

I expect that she won't go too far before she finds someone else to share her delight --Releases it and watches the delight spread.

What is there about the encounter that makes me think of it as a gift?

Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Small Interval

...a fine space separates us
from experiencing our life
as nowhere or now here.
-- Sue Monk Kidd

A word changes when elbow room alters a meaning, expanding possibilities. Instead of life seen as mired in one spot, a break in perception creates a new perspective.

Now here encourages panoramic views. New realities emerge from the available materials. A collage. A montage.

Lift a corner to discover hidden places. Release an idea and watch it take root. Now here means relinquishing a disconnect with our reality and taking hold of here now to live. Not to merely make the best of, but to engage with, wrestle with, take hold of life.

Friday, August 02, 2013

ad libitum

yesterday slipped by
and tomorrow's not here
all that's here is now
just this moment
everything is present
in this interval
the intersection of time
but it can't be stopped
moves on, releases
the present into the past
go with the journey
savor the flow
ask for a blessing
breathe into each moment

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Connection

For years our small deck felt cramped, especially with privacy panels on either end. When the condo association , prodded on by the age of the development,decided to replace all the decks, we chose to pay an additional sum and expand the size of our deck.

Even before the last piece of railing fell into place we had bought a new outdoor broom.

As soon as I note a small collection of leaves I wield the broom across the deck corralling whatever is in my path. Everything is swept into a pile and then with a golf swing the pile is sent beneath the railings into the backyard.

My parents were in their sixties when they bought their first home, a two bedroom condo. My mother selected a shag rug for the living room and dining room. The first time I visited I noted an odd looking rake in the corner of their bedroom. Just staring at the long handled implement drew forth an explanation from my father.

"That's a shag rug rake to groom the rug."

"If you use a vacuum it will lose its distinctness and flatten down."

Every day my father took the rake to the carpet.

Until they bought that green shag I don't think my father ever did more than a perfunctory job of pushing a carpet sweeper, but now he raked with quiet determination until every strand stood up straight.

As I swept the fallen leaves off the deck I thought of my father raking and then sitting down with a book, reading and glancing at his groomed shag.

With the release of a memory a connective link...