Friday, December 24, 2010


today's Latin lesson is sponsored by a song we're singing for Christmas Eve service. because i wanted to know the meaning behind the words, i looked up "Gaudete". it is a sacred Christmas carol, composed in the 16th Century. the text is a typical medieval song of praise, usually about Mary, the saints, or other Christmastide themes.

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Tempus adest gratiae
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina laetitiae
devote reddamus.

Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary--rejoice!
The time of grace has come--
This that we have desired,
Verses of joy
Let us devoutly return.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

make art, not boredom

i did my part. well, at least i tried to improve family life in the greater portland area for 2011. i gave every art class a charge. because, as we all know, kids can't wait to get to christmas vacation. until, that is, tragedy strikes. about 6 days, if parents are so lucky, into break three little words follow kids around like wet socks, "mom, i'm bored." their friends are out of town, nothing left to do but video games. oh no, my friends, this will never do. if, i told all 320 of them, you find yourself tempted to utter such unspeakable horror, please stop yourself. (you know your parents will only give you more chores afterall.) no, instead go outside, read a book. don't just sit there, MAKE SOMETHING! and again on their way out the door just to make sure, "make more art, happy holidays, make more art...did i mention to make more art, see you next year, don't get you-know-what!?" i refuse to get bored, there's just too much life to be had. cook, dance, paint, write, read, ski, make a movie, design a tshirt, take skating your part, don't make someone else responsible for your happiness and entertainment. no boredom allowed, ever! what are some ways that you eradicate boredom in your home?

Monday, December 13, 2010

looking up

i've been thinking about the magi a lot lately. they were sky-watchers. and not just for a day. likely for years. trained, ridiculously patient astronomers who knew when something changed in the cosmos.

tonight there is supposed to be a grand meteor shower, best viewing times between midnight and sunrise. and next monday-tuesday is a lunar eclipse.

i'm not trained nor near as patient, but i'm going to try to go to bed early, set my alarm and see what i can! add coffee to the list of wise men's gifts.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

what happiness feels like

adventures in tree stealing's time to celebrate! question for you, "when was the last time you were truly happy?" (because nothing can stop God while He's creating.) what did it look, feel, taste, smell or sound like?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

how very grand

i knew i wanted to get a tree this year, but i didn't expect to get it today. my saturday walking buddy and i were out for our usual trek enjoying the particularly clear morning. we had just been talking about how nothing in our lives is wasted and how transformation and renewal come from hard times when i noticed IT. a perfectly good tree on a burn pile. "stand guard for dogs and people with guns and stuff" i shouted back to her as i impulsively trespassed, heading straight for the tree. upon inspection, it was a freshly cut grand fir tree with some minor irreguarities, making it unsellable.

"all clear?" i hollered, dragging it several yards to the road, thankful that it was so early and that we were the only ones out and about. "yep," she laughed, "i'll help you carry it back to your house". so there we were, two women carrying a rather large tree awkwardly down the side of the road. as people passed us in their cars, they did double-takes at this strange sight. "we just stole a christmas tree, you know." "no we didn't," she replied, "we rescued it. a gift for the noticing."

i like the way she thinks. maybe i'll go back to the tree farm (which shall remain anonymous) with cookies or something.


my creative writing student taught me a new word! we had finished our tutoring session and she was working on some grammar. "miss smith, what's 'nadir' mean?" i didn't know, so we looked it up...

nadir: 1. a point on the celestial sphere directly below the observer, diametrically opposite the zenith 2. the lowest point

(from old french, from arabic nazir as-samt)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

you've been cloved!

my friend showed me how to clove an orange. i'd never done that before. his was already done and starting to dry. you probably already know this, but come to find out, the cloves have this mummifying effect on the citrus and then you can decorate and hang it for the holidays. i started out sitting on the couch until the holes started spurting and i realized i had to get serious. moving to the floor and getting closer to my task, i resumed poking. the spices jabbed my thumb (you might need a thimble) sometimes refusing to go in as i tried, somewhat in vain, to make a pretty pattern. i settled for mere even placement for my first try. "my orange has been cloved!" i announced to everyone amid the running juice and mess of my fingers; their home warm as people cooked, came and went, warmed themselves by the fire. life is messy and stabs at us sometimes; but the few people who truly, truly know and love us have this powerful preserving effect on our broken places; the fragrance of belonging.


i'm a giver. gifts are a huge part of my love language and it's so much fun to get things ready for others. and i love to cook for people or go out for shared meals. this year, my church put me on the list to receive a thanksgiving box. when i was employed there, part of my job was to get the kids involved with bringing food donations. but me, now on the receiving end? the word "charity" came to mind in a most uncomfortable way. i wasn't homeless or out of work. in fact, i had just been made full time at work and was doing fine. i couldn't possibly receive it, could i?

when i picked it up, there was so much food i had to make three trips from the church kitchen to my car. everything from pie crusts and olives to rolls and a 16-pound turkey! cupboards, pantry and freezer full, i stepped back and thought about it again. disarming as it was, we give AND receive in community. the food was a tangible thing and the feeling of being cared for slowly snuck up on me. i wasn't used to it, but it felt good. together with others we are healed, we are loved, we are fed if we allow ourselves to be.

thank you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


i'm going to leave up my fall decorations (no pun intended) for just a bit longer, until the end of november. then everything comes down and nothing goes up...for a while. i found an old advent journal i kept in 2001 that had, handily, exactly 25 pages in it. one way i'd like to begin these holy days is by rereading it, one page at a time.

then, after a week or so of reading and of my home being bare, i will start to decorate. the empty space reminds me to make room for the sacred. as madeleine l'engle put it, "this is the irrational season when love blooms bright and wild! had mary been filled with reason, there'd have been no room for the child."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

first real frost

bundled. i'm ready for one of my favorite things: digging up the potatoes. they are late this year, along with the winter squash that i must bring in from the cold (now there's an oxymoron).
the first frost of the year fell today.

yesterday was the my college friend's wedding. i appreciated that it was a real wedding (as opposed to a glorified "prom for grown ups"--with, sadly, about as much commitment). yesterday, by contrast was authentic, the result of patient waiting. it froze my heart by it's beauty and then melted me as i was witness to yet another aspect of God's love. i love that they weren't afraid to use scripture and U2 lyrics in their ceremony: "love and fear and sex and all the things that keep us here, in the mysterious distance between a man and a woman..."

treasures from the heart, from the ground...all evidence of a faithful harvest.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

love & squalor

i received a fall gift of wine with the label "love & squalor". even though i am an english teacher, i couldn't remember exactly what "squalor" meant. it reminded me of squall; huge strorms but no, that wasn't it. i looked it up and it actually means, "of or having to do with extreme dirt or filth." in a squalid state. that made me laugh because the label shows three little dresses neatly lined up on a clothesline.
i shall now use my new vocabulary in a sentence: after being introduced to my first two episodes of "hoarders" last week and being a neat-freak minimalist myself, i have to say that i was shocked at the squalid environments that some people willfully live in. word of the day sponsored with remind us that life is messy and best eaten over the sink! (but at least we can still find the kitchen sink, right? this spoken with empathy).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

princess shoes and widowhood

six various pink and purple sequined shoes lined my entry way. inside, crayons flew and the small owners of the shoes asked for marshmallows as the older women sipped hot spiced wine. struck by the tenderness with which my recently widowed friend held her husband's ring (newly fashioned into jewelry for her) i stood back and watched the generations mix together in my living room. a true "6-60" gathering; microcosm of shared human experience.

one of the young girls would put her shoes back on to come out and sit by the fire, pointing to the night sky and saying, "up, up! mr. moon" in all of her innocence while other guests went home to care for their aging parents. i have that small girl in me as well as an old soul. i face most every day eagerly with wide eyes. on days i don't it is my confidence in life's ability to continue rolling forward that carries me. regardless of age, in some ways, one size does fit all if we're willing to go with someone that second mile and let them walk with us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


a treasure of a book wanted to be found by me this week. and so it was. a little tome called "potluck: parables of giving, taking and belonging". honestly, i found it at a dollar store. (sidenote: no author wants to find their book on a table at the dollar store or on a free pile at a thrift shop, but i digress). flipping it over, i discovered that it was actually valued at $12.99 and a whole $17.99 in canada. price and value relative as they are, i did my "book test". 1) feel the cover 2) open it at random 3) read selection. and it was mine for a mere $1.

she is a rich, rich writer. what made me gasp was her opening line. (i had just been to see high school friends put on a production of steel magnolias and was thinking alot about the concept). page one of unlikely book find, (and no, alert readers, i am not making this up):

"southern women with the soft beauty of a flower and the resolved strength of galvanized metal are known as 'steel magnolias'." the author, kim thomas, goes on to describe her first memories of the community of family and food. it's a perfect devotional for this thanksgiving season and helps me slow the days before advent.

is it easy being this tough and tender woman? a warrior-bride who is both sufficient and sensitive? hardly. it is painful and it is beautiful. come to the table, together we will share, over vulnerabilities, the meal of love and break the bread of thanksgiving. (hey, maybe our stories will even make it into the bargain book section of borders!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

for english teachers

(for everyone, really)
this is too true and worth watching:

30 days

a friend just introduced me to the show "30 days" and we watched, of all episodes, the one about a christian who spends a month as a muslim. i was ok and approaching things from an intellectual point of view until this scene: they are sitting around the dinner table debating holy wars and one man says, "it's not like you're going to strap a C4 to your chest and go into a night club in bali or something..." i had to pause it right there (see other blog entries). it opened the way for some great conversation about forgiveness and empathy. i highly recommend watching these mini-documentaries as a way of walking in someone else's shoes.

stormy weather

it's that time of year again! (no, not christmas, more on that later) but time for stormy weather at the oregon coast. a friend and i were intrepid travelers last weekend, walking from her condo down the streets of cannon beach to take in the weather, artistry. the rain hurt our faces and it was worth every moment. if you love storm-watching and art, you'll want to make a tradition out of going the first weekend in november. i can't wait to go back and take cooking classes at EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). it was the best: happy hours, quiet reading, bookstores, meaningful talk, great coffee at local bakeries...mostly, the company (priceless). the sky even put on a show for us the next morning with rainbows, sunrays and heart clouds! (i am not making this up)

beautiful fall adventures, all. so imagine my surprise when i went shopping today to get ready for a fall gathering i'm hosting and i could no longer find leaf-laden cups & napkins in pretty fall colors?! maybe i missed something, but we haven't had thanksgiving yet, right? all the cups and decor were about santa and snowmen. and the local mall? a giant outdoor christmas tree. i felt very out of place; i just brought in the last crop of tomatoes and am still admiring the vineyards after all! (i think it is true about leaves and life in general that sometimes they are most beautiful toward the end.) the early holly-jolly wasn't all bad, though because i have to say i did enjoy my first eggnog latte of the season. not quite ready to deck the halls, but i could take a good swing at commercialism in general. slow down and enjoy the stormy weather!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

leonardo fibonacci comes to school

i don't know that i've ever been more excited about school! our art & math unit started this week and the kids are so eager to make designs based on the number pattern discovery of leonardo fibonacci (1170-1250).
basically, if you add one number to itself starting with 0, you get the sequence for the golden ratio. plugging in 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13, you see not only the basis for the nautilus shell spiral, but also the math behind the greek parthenon. (if you've been following my blog, you might remember i wrote a lot about my discoveries of flower petals, sunflowers and beehives this summer.)
now it's hitting the classroom: students as young as first grade already have this concept down after one class and are applying it using their shape blocks and graph paper. since i teach K-8 this year, it is fun to see what they are doing in their age-level math classes and watch their eyes light up when they see that art isn't relegated to just drawing and painting but is alive in everything from science experiments and architecture to cell structures and history class.

pied beauty

this is pretty much my view every day when i drive home, look out my window, or go for a walk! the change is electric and leaves the tips of deciduous trees looking like candle flames not to mention the eye-catching vineyards.
today on my walk i mulled over the philosophies of poet gerard manley hopkins; his view of aesthetics mainly. i've always wondered if there is change in heaven? because here, we tend to see the sorrowful sides of change (moving, age, transitions) as loss, which they often are. maybe heaven will be all about variety without the sorrow? at any rate, hopkins wrote a lot about the beauty in variety, believing that nature and life are studies in contrasts. here is his poem, "pied beauty". i love his words so much i still have them memorized:

glory be to God for dappled things--
for skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
for rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow and plough;
and all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

all things counter, original, spare, strange;
whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
with swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change.
praise Him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

to put courage into

the word encouragement actually means "to put courage into". i love that. and i have to share portions of a letter that i received recently. maybe it will encourage an area of your life as much as it encouraged me in my writing process.

"...your experiences are unique to you. and your story, the way you tell it, how you feel and perceive it--it is all you. it may be what someone else is looking for. we all want to feel less alone and like we aren't the only ones who feel a certain way...please keep writing because your story has not been told yet. only you can do it."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

a gathering of Friends

our soul too has seasons. after working in a church for over a decade, i've been wondering where i can go to rest but still have community on a sunday morning? today i visited a gathering of quakers (Friends) for their unprogrammed service. no more than 12 of us sat in a circle while someone read mark 4:26-32. and then we sat in silence. after maybe a half hour, a few people said some short connections and analogies out loud; things that came to their mind. it was rich, a meaningful hour together. definitely better than being home alone reading these verses, which would rob a community of something God might want me to contribute (someone reminded me of this recently because we tend to view church attendance as a product that we can get something out of but it's not all about us). certain styles of getting together with others right now though are just too loud, too bright, leaving me sometimes more overwhelmed, tired and scattered than when i came. today contained an optimum blend of fellowship and simplicity that i found deeply energizing.

in my 20's i had a soul of zeal, a fire with lots of spark, flame and action. now it has calmed down, deepened through suffering and increased in white-hot coals of contemplation that lead, i hope, to more accurate and focused action. for my soul right now anyway, less is definitely more. this spills over into other areas of life where i find i'm not afraid to rest before i need to. and it gives me the time, space and style that my personality needs right now to really think things over.

what season might your soul be in?

Saturday, October 30, 2010


had myself some pdx culture today. started the day with nia class at the downtown studio. then met a friend for a movie and crepes. let the rain come down...i studied the writings of hildegard in college.
it's interesting to me on another level too, because i've noticed that many people who were extremely visionary or talented also struggled with much illness, like hildegard. was this to keep them grounded, humble like st. paul's "thorn in the flesh"? or was it a way for them to take notice because there's not much else to do if you are flat in bed? i can wonder, but i don't have the slightest clue why or what it would be like to live in their skin. many great writers and artists had their talent grow from struggle. for madeleine l'engle it was being a somewhat sickly only child. for artist frida kahlo it was a terrible accident. and i have several friends who i think would fall into this category today. i marvel at their ability to suffer physical sickness gracefully while contributing such beauty to the world.
i could tell you more, but i'll let you go see it; this film speaks for itself, or rather, for hildegard!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

legacy simply put

last week would have been my great grandmother's 125th birthday, this tidbit brought to you by the alert thoughfulness of my cousin. nettie (whom i'm named after) did live to be 102. she only had a 6th grade education but she loved to read two things: the writings of historian Josephus and her Bible. that inspires me, particularly because i think i am in about 26th grade (and have student loans to prove it) but you don't need a lot of schooling to love reading.

i happen to have nettie's New Testament & Psalms. words have this amazing power through the generations and i took no small comfort in getting it out this week just to hold it's crumbling, well-loved spine and cover. turning pages carefully i discovered her poor grammar and spelling scrawled in pencil throughout favorite passages.

love and legacy of words need not be complicated. like the staples button says, "that was easy."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


gyotaku (gee-o-tak-u) is the 19th century japanese art of fish printing. samurai warriors used it to keep records of their catches. i am using it as proof that i am totally insane.

this art teacher stopped at H-mart (a local korean market) for 4 whole tilapia, a couple of flounders and as many free chinese newspapers as i could covertly carry under my arm. 320 kids will paint and print the specimens this week, if they survive (the fish that is, not the kids).

thanks to vital information from a creative friend of mine who's done this before, i learned with great relief that the fish stays on the newsprint and the paper is pressed over top. so far, both 4th grade classes have turned out some great prints! plus i, smelling of marine life, asked fellow teachers gathered in the lounge at lunch, "is it legal to have this much fun at school?!"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

under the same sun

i know i promised a wordstock update. it was great; i went with a poet friend of mine. we rode Max light rail and grabbed good coffee before perusing the booths. several business cards and poetry journals later, we knew that we should start submitting our own work.

and then one publishing house in particular stopped me short. they were displaying one of their books called simply "mentor: a memoir". i read the inside cover and it is the exact book that i am still trying to write. only it is authored by a man about his teacher. change the names to me and colleen and, well, it's pretty much our story.

that should inspire me right? actually, no. hence the late posting about last week's event. it makes me wonder if i should just keep the story inside knowing it is as much a part of me as my own dna. once outside of me, will it cheapen? truly there is nothing new under the sun, only the times and faces have been changed.

fall flight

cloud-lined highways of sky
witness a thin
shimmering ribbon
borne south by ripples
and instinct
they reward your stillness
with heralding calls as
flight positions shift
poppy seeds on the horizon's
uneven row

digging for potatoes

russet treasure
earth's gleaming
clods of sillion-spark
ash and stone

down-spade and
turns up tumbling
deposit, ground's fruit

once hidden harvest
and sun-shone energy
now visible roots

collected in my
open palms

in celebration

blackberries have sugared
on the vines
with morning chill

and leaves, injected veins of change,
hang in the alchemy of God;
surrender to the beauty
that cannot, will not stay the same

for the atmosphere of falling
is always somewhere
between frost-tips and
bone warming sunsets
in their streak

calling me to
hold the One
who is past variety
and be

Friday, October 15, 2010


last night i had the privilege of meeting a man who is close to heaven. really, he has gone off all of his cancer treatments. when i reached out to shake his hand, he held it and looked me in the eye. a former worship leader, he said in regards to music, "when life is going well, you want to sing all the time...when you are suffering, praise takes on a whole new level." his wife said, "yes, he's always been my songbird." i will be thinking about that as i hum through my days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

eight years

remember where you were?
and then 12.12.02
we remember.
bali, indonesia.
jemaah islamiyah.
C4 military grade explosive.
death toll: 202
additional injured: 240
1 american. megan eileen heffernan.
teacher. photographer. friend.
death? instant.

these lines by poet mary oliver come to mind as i remember
tuesday, october 12th. eight years later. and for all of our lives:

"i don't know exactly what a prayer is.
i do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what i have been doing all day.
tell me, what else should i have done?
doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

for more information and to view memorial sites you can visit:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

societal Q & A

who hasn't asked or been asked a bad question from someone who was well-intentioned?
these are classic.

Q: were you close?
A: no that's why i can't stop crying at the memorial. we never actually met.

Q: so is it a boy or a girl, when is your due date?
A: we plan on having a unisex alien with a gestational date of at least 13 months.

Q: so what do you do?
A: actually, i'm out on good behavior right now for violent acts against people who ask bad questions.

today i was asked the following at least 5 different times by various people in multiple social settings,

Q: so why aren't you married?!

various answers from the last 18 years came to mind. but what i actually ended up saying was, "you know, there's a lot of love in my life. it's just not in the form of one man right now. so to answer your question, i actually have no idea. why are you married?"

oh for the love of scrabble

my scrabble buddy from tonight is in first grade and she rocks. we even got a double letter score for making the word "worm".
but what was really fun was our dialogue when i first got to their house. just having come from the wordstock event downtown, i was ready.
"hi maya! what do you love about school?"
"well, i love most things but not everything, i mean my bus buddy for the pumpkin patch field trip on friday? she can't come or something to be my bus buddy and it's all, blah blah blah."
"blah blah blah?"
"yeah, no buddy for the bus, i don't even know why blah blah blah."
"so what's the other latest word you've learned?"
"oh that's easy. it's 'parasite', you know, when you can't move at all."
"right, do you mean 'paralyzed'?"
"ummm, yeah, like this" (freezes in place)...then says, "so then what's 'parasite'?"
"it' a flea on a dog or anything else that sort of hangs out and takes without sharing."
"oh. i think i like being paralyzed better."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

h---mark need not apply

ever noticed how the right cards just don't exist for certain life occasions?

years ago, for example, my best childhood buddy sent me a card as a joke. it said, "happy barmitzvah to my favorite god-child." now that's specific.

case in point, this summer i couldn't find a greeting for a friend that said, "way to go for selflessly serving your mother after her hip surgery while you're teaching full time and being a wife and mother". and yet millions of faithful daughters do this every day.

(maybe the catch-all is what the "blank" card sections are supposed to be for. hmm.)

and just this week, i canceled with my insurance company of over twenty years. it was like breaking up. so i thought maybe there should be a line of cards, one for the old company, "thank you for your past, albeit expensive, service" and one for the new company, "will you go out with me?"

what card would you design?

alpha-beatical order

today john lennon would have been 70. hence the radio station's "alpha-beatical order" marathon of beatles songs. this morning i woke up to my alarm playing somewhere in the "c's" for holiday tunes. go, ringo!
in the retro spirit of the weekend, i'm also planning to attend portland's "wordstock" festival.
incidentally a friend wanted to know if she could set some of my poetry to music. (with all due respect that was very flattering seeing as neither one of us is a dead white guy.)

happy birthday, john. and let's hear it for "live poet's society"!


speaking of noticing things, you know how your subconscious memory is smarter than you are? honestly, i was thinking about megan a lot this week and then a friend said, "hey, isn't your friend's memorial date coming up?"

"you know, it is, thanks for connecting that for me, she has been on my mind."
this tuesday, october 12th, she will have been in heaven for 8 years.

in 2002 megan was killed in the terrorist bombing in bali, indonesia. for us back then this was an unspeakable tragedy. now i'm afraid that today's generation will see events like this as common weekly, if not daily, news items. "oh," they will say, "of course there was a bomb, it's tuesday."
(the concept of frequency + duration has a tendency to numb us i think.)

i have a shadow box collage of megan in my room. across the glass in gold i have written, "remember." so, joining my subconscious, i will call now to mind her life and legacy and do just that. without bitterness. without fear. i want to use remembering as a sacred act of continual forgiveness.

Monday, September 27, 2010


lately i've found such joy in: noticing, enjoying, thinking, savoring and being thankful. reading a book by desmond tutu, i discovered him calling them "disciplines". usually when i think of disciplines, i think of something hard up front that leads to delayed gratification. these five, however, are so much fun that i've begun calling them "spiritual pleasures" because the very act of practicing them is often reward enough.

there are additional payoffs too. i'm calmer. i seem to show up where i'm supposed to and have authentic conversations. my perspective has increased, as has my ability to create and share space. i appreciate things more.

(the contrast is stark. i have also experienced what i believe to be the opposites of these pleasures: rushing, mindlessness, inattention, hurriedness and complaining. when i am guilty of these, how much i miss!)

to be perfectly honest, practicing the pleasures also creates some tension. american society isn't a real friendly one when it comes to the art of paying attention and enjoying life. i also find there isn't time to talk about the exciting discoveries i've made along the way because that would require reflection and listening, two rare commodities in 2010. and, at other times, i am just plain overwhelmed by the speed and forcefulness that swirls around me. and role models? my teachers are mostly authors, some still alive & some not, who have shared their experiences, like bishop tutu, in book form.

i know that it is much, much more than a life of leisure. summer was a key time for an introduction, and the school year is a perfect venue in which to continue my practice of delight.
join me?


while gardening this weekend, i found something of potential on an "old parts pile" from my landlord's remodeling/construction business. a tangled, burnt mass of wire wrapped itself in the other rusted items but already i could see that it formed a perfectly proportioned cross.

excited, i carefully salvaged it, straightening some of the wires and bending others. the middle was empty and needed just the right focal point. the red leather heart-shaped pilgrim's purse a friend brought back for me from france came to mind. and it was perfect! placing the heart in the middle of the coils, i hung the re-found cross the wall.

that was saturday. today is monday and when i went to school, i discovered that my boss, having no idea about my weekend creation, had placed a book in my mailbox for me called "making crosses: a creative connection to God" by ellen morris prewitt. looking at the found-object pictures, my eye fell on the chapter, "whatever we do, God can work with it."

i found out that the piece of metal served as the backing hook to an old holiday wreath and was all that remained after the bonfire. christmas for easter. i thought of Jesus' birth and how this hook now came to symbolize His ultimate sacrifice of transformative love on our behalf. the author writes, "you too, are trying to make a cross. together, we will build our crosses, we will share with each other what God means in our lives. And God, in the infinite wisdom that belongs to the Divine, will smile at our handmade, broken, inept gifts of glory."

what will you find to make your cross?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the art of predecession

word of the day? predecessor. see also: lanette. not because i am one, but because i have a lot of them, tending as i do to fall into the category of professional place-taker. what got me thinking of this was that i'm getting ready to go to an art show of the woman who taught at our school for ten years. not only is she a professional artist, but she is an award-winning one. these are not the only huge mocassins i have been called to inhabit.

there was the beloved children's pastor, poster-child for grandmother of the year (retired)
and then the PhD in literature (died)
not to forget the revered professor of religious studies (sabbatical), now known as the art teacher (she moved). it's humbling, really. at first it's all shock and nerves. then you come to realize that "whom God calls He also equips." in other words, folks, it's not about us! when we're nervous, though, we tend to try too hard (last year), be defensive, or prove something, forgetting that our best work comes when we relax, take a deep breath and quit trying to be something or someone we're not. with time, we inhabit our new role, wiggle around a bit, take risks, try new things and make it our own.

we, after all, are going to be a predecessor for someone else who might shake in our shoes, so we might as well just go ahead and be ourselves. now that's art.

hello, autumn

this week i celebrated the autumnal equinox by showing my students a youtube video about the earth's axis. it's not that i don't like summer. i know it seems counter-cultural to be excited about the days getting...shorter. but, ever the optimist, i know they'll get longer later so we always have something to look forward to, right?

what celebrating fall is about for me: the air's crispness, harvesting potatoes, being among raving fans at live football games, commutes to watch the changing colors, trying new recipes and hosting friends. then there's always those indian summer nights in early october that call for a firepit or one last stop at a farmer's market and concert ; a deja-vu of months gone by.

what are your thoughts on fall?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

beethoven or bust

my friends have this bust of beethoven in their dining room. it's great, you set the table and his scowl commands as if to say, "so, you're going to go ahead and serve pearl onions, are you?" (i hear he is partial to potatoes au gratin). regardless, one thing beethoven never was? passive.

while practicing his 5th symphony tonight at orchestra, our conductor told us that ludwig was so passionate, in fact, that he broke almost every piano he played. they kept making new ones and he kept on breaking them. but he could not bust the modern steinway. it is beethoven-proof.

so go ahead, eat the pearl onions and pound away on the piano. they're not going to hurt you and you couldn't possibly hurt it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


the fibonacci number series keeps popping up in ordinary art conversation. a retired friend of mine is into painting and not only did he tell me that fibonacci's number has been useful to his work, but that kids can learn to mark out their paintings according to this principle of aesthetics!

fibonacci's series is actually a geometric progression, "the common ratio of the series being none other than the golden ratio, Phi." (huntley, p. 145).

huntley, in his book the divine proportion, goes on to say that beauty in mathematics is a compound of several ingredients:
1) the alternation of tension and relief 2) the realization of expectation 3) surprise at the unexpected 4) the perception of unsuspected relationships 5) patterns and 6) unity in variety.

this explains not only how a nautilus shell grows (logarithmic spirals and golden triangles) but everything from the cross of lorraine's design (thank you, charles de gaulle) to the parthenon in athens. it explains phyllotaxis and leaf divergence in botany and the geometric perfection of honeycombs. not only does there exists a masterful reason behind why our eyes are drawn to things we find pleasing, but we can use it to create with as well!

daily bread

i woke up this morning to a radio interview of dave dahl of "dave's killer bread". he shared about how his teenage depression spiralled into a life of drugs and, eventually, crime. "i wasn't a very gifted criminal," he joked, "i got caught, i did a lot of time...and eventually i started playing guitar, working out in the jail yard, yeah, actually starting to like myself." after 15 years in prison, he went back to the family bakery business.

i just happened to have a loaf of his bread in my kitchen, a fitting toast to start the day. the name of one of his recipes is called "good seed" and, as he explains, "after seeing what i've seen and the negativity of it all, i just want to spread good seed, you know?" their company is booming and even goes as far as to hire ex-cons. more of his story is available at

Saturday, September 18, 2010

made for goodness

i went to my favorite monastery today. the book i threw in my backpack was "made for goodness" by desmond tuto, co-authored with his daughter mpho. these are only a few of the quotes i copied while the rain came down:

"the practices of goodness--noticing, savoring, thinking, enjoying and being thankful--are not hard disciplines to learn. but they are disciplines and they take practice." (p. 92)

"before God made us, he loved us and this love has never slackened, nor ever shall." julian of norwich

"a teacher's lack of self regard is one demonstration of love in action. teachers set aside their own fatigue to care for the children in their charge. the parents who had their children into the caregivers' charge trust the innate goodness of these workers. they expect that, no matter what these workers feel on any given day, their actions will speak of love." (p. 34)

"perfect love is the love that is responsive rather than reactive." (p. 28)

"it is God's invitation to us to be life artists, to be those who create lives of beauty." (p. 48)

and, from the monastic office (psalm 62), "to love God is to live fully, to feast, to rest content, to be under a protective wing, to embrace and to be embraced."

teaching muscles

i thought i would blog today, utilizing words to say how very few words i have left. the first week of school could not have gone any better. and the introvert part of me could not be more shell-shocked.

it's not every week that you meet and intentionally relate with over three-hundred people. metaphorically speaking, it's a bit like going out and running 30 miles after sitting on the couch for three years. but my strength will again grow; gain social endurance. after about four weeks of training, my face muscles will endure and my vocal chords will last longer. pacing each day, each week, each month to finish the race strong.

if giving is any indication of teaching, so is receiving. a student brought me cookies and a note saying how glad they were that they were in my class. and a fellow teacher friend gave me a long-term gift of time, prayer and commitment that is still sinking in, it touched my heart that much.

there's nothing like this profession. if you and i were to swap a day in each other's work environments, we would probably both be overwhelmed. i wouldn't have a clue how to synchronize your computer files and you would have to balance a schedule of 3 subjects with kids ranging from age 5-14. i would probably not like how many meetings or conference calls you might have. and i would make sure to leave you lots of notes about our staff meetings, parent emails, classes of the week, chapels and announcements.

oh, and warning, the hallway is LOUD. but then again, so is the love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

owl song part 2

fall is here and with it? owl song. it's truly amazing. in the middle of the night out the open window you can hear tonalities that sound like a distant marimba playing. upper and lower registers, haunting, melodic...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

first day

pouring in chatter
of returning rain
with fallen apples

the one on your desk
ripe, sticky
like leftover glue

so begins diurnal litanies
sacrament to socratic, is it--method?
and communion of not-so-saints

in new red shoes

Monday, September 6, 2010

quotes & things

a bevy of interesting finds:

"for us there is a special feeling that comes from living in the country and being alone. the peace enhances our closeness to the elements, and we have the knowlege that nature is always just around the corner for us to enjoy."

"a real spiritual life makes us so alert and aware of the world around us, that all that is and happens becomes part of our contemplation and meditation and invites us to a free and fearless response." --henri nouwen

"i know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read, there where you have landed, stripped as you are." --adrienne rich from an atlas of the difficult world

books: acedia & me: a marriage, monks, and a writer's life by kathleen norris
soul survivor: how 13 unlikely mentors helped my faith by philip yancey
the revolution, the relevant nation both edited by heather zydek
hope in the dark with reflections by jena lee
world enough, poems by maureen n. mclane
made for goodness and why this makes all the difference by desmond & mpho tutu
geez magazine

and...the new word of the day: diurnal. daily, or relating to things occuring in the daytime.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


non-labor day. connoting lakeside days for the working class. even though he never said it out loud, my father taught me the importance of hard work; of doing your best. from him i took on the "no job is beneath me" mentality, having done everything from scrubbing camp toilets to teaching in higher education.

and, while no job is beneath any of us, as any career counselor will tell you, not every job will satisfy our unique gifts and talents. being content to do anything as part of our universal act of reasonable service while also pressing in to those things for which we were particularly created for seems to be part of what it might mean to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

looking at the patterns of vocation as well as avocation, we may find ourselves happiest working with people or alone, creating or managing, researching or organizing. in our current economic state, i think most people are just glad to have a means of making money, without as much time maybe as they would like to luxuriate in their calling and passion. i am a teacher (although i always wanted to be a graphic designer) and wouldn't trade it for anything. somewhere along the way, i fell awake into the realization that i was meant to work with all ages in a variety of spiritual and academic settings. but, while i was searching, people even gave me copies of the book, "renaissance souls: a book for people with too many passions to pick just one."

job roles and titles come and go. but my avocation? friend. and that's something that needs no vacation day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


first blog entry of september and my extrovert & multitasking muscles are tired. i seem to have settled (for the first time in my life!) into an almost subterraneous peace sharable only with animals and young babies--who unknowingly serve as my litmus test of calm. while the pace is picking up (315+ students per week) i plan to keep honing my observation skills.

yesterday, after falling asleep in my car, i sat on a bench at school for hours. relishing the quiet, i noted the fir trees playing host to campus birds. will they be scared away come wednesday? will i? can i be present and attend to volumes of people in meaningful ways?

desiring to be a person who gives space (as opposed to just taking up space), today i worked in the yard for one of the last real times, scaring up flying grasshoppers and pre-hibernating lady bugs. a deer and i shared the yard, both of us feeling like a snack of blackberries. he didn't run away from me, so the peace must still be here. here's to carrying it with me into the happy mayhem.

Monday, August 30, 2010

on gratefulness

attend the relentless exploration
of thanks
mining gratitude
from otherwise bleak caves
to extract
ah! even one
immortal diamond

Saturday, August 28, 2010

aesthetics, i presume

i've decided i DO, afterall, want to get my PhD. with apologies to those of you reading who have real ones, i want to do an honorary degree. i guess a better way to put it is, "unofficial". basically, i can't afford to go deeper and deeper into student loan debts, i.e. paying someone somewhere to work my tail off so i would make it up as i went along.

i want to study Aesthetics. the entire branch of design and how it relates to theology (just seeing titles in italics like summa theologica gives me goosebumps!). not only that, but beauty and its connection to math, science, literature, music and nature by looking for patterns and making connections.

first i would choose book titles. in the style of a classical education, the authors would be my teachers. after i read about 900 of these, i'd have to find people (you?) to discuss the ideas with. then, after crafting hours--amounting to the rest of my natural life--of papers, i would then receive my "diploma", conferred upon me by several of my closest friends. seriously, they could sign it and everything. we could even have crabcakes and champagne. i think mounting it in one of those nifty 8 x 10 frames from fred meyer would be enough to feel like Dr. Smith.


i'm enjoying the word "inhabit" these days. so much, in fact, that i had a friend write it in henna on my arm. i almost forgot it was there, but, for about a week more until it fades, people might say, "what's that on your arm?" (besides a bruise from the staff volleyball match) and i will tell them.

the word reminds me to be at home. grounded; at rest in my own skin, to dwell, be peaceful and present. enough synonyms? taking up this kind of residence in myself is all about being more fully aware of God and others while expressing love in fuller ways. i think inhabiting where we're at actually might help in regards to empathy too, one of my other favorite words.

wherever you find yourself, how might you truly inhabit that space?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

keep it simple, stupid (KISS)

ok, i did it. i took a writing risk.
you see, this page from a magazine on the plane just wouldn't get out of my head.
so i looked up the contest rules and just now pressed "send". that one little four letter word, pregnant with expectation and terror.

the prize? 2 round-trip tickets to New York with hotel accomodations, tickets to a Broadway show, essay published, lunch with the magazine editors and $3,000.

i'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

swell season

i love simple movies. ones that do a lot with a small budget and capture rare glimpses of humanity. "once" (2007) was one such film and now the singers from it are on tour. i'm looking forward to hearing them at the zoo concert series. called "swell season" they are well worth booking tickets for!

the art of familiar essays

this week i came upon a gem of a book: "at large and at small: familiar essays by anne fadiman" (author of ex libris). what refreshed me was her renewal of the "familiar essay" (aka charles lamb and william hazlitt). stemming from the early nineteenth century, this type of essayist didn't speak to the millions, his audience was one reader. his viewpoint was subjective, but although he wrote about himself, he also wrote enthusiastically about a subject with which he was familiar.

examples, often beginning with "on". "on the custom of hissing at theaters", "on gusto", or "on the melancholy of tailors".

i've noticed two extremes on today's bookshelves. one one hand there is the esoteric academic--even technical--writing that can only appeal to 3% or less of the population (dissertations on theories about theorists's relative theories of atom-splitting?) and then, there are millions of felled trees devoted to somewhat narcissistic memoir that doesn't even have to be true as long as it's gut-wrenching or dramatic. we call it "honest and authentic" but after reading what anne here has to say, it got me wondering if, in fact, the latter doesn't just come down to an "it's all about me" generation suffering from ennui who spews verbal vomit in the name of literature. (as always, feel free to heartily agree or disagree in the comment department--the more conversation the better).

in the familiar essay there are brains as well as heart. they are neither too cold nor too mushy, but ah! just right quoth this goldilocks. i admittedly tend towards both extremes at times, depending on life events i need to process or new academic concepts i'm excited about. but this gives me some purposeful practice in the writing department. i shall try to do justice to the style in forthcoming missives by sharing information with a warm, conversational tone. it's exciting to know they aren't mutually exclusive. for now let's call it "on blogging".

Monday, August 16, 2010


for those of you who have seen the movie "eat pray love" or for those who haven't, what would your three words be? i mean, how would you summarize an adventure of yours or life as you know it in one pithy title? i thought mine might be "preach, teach, farm", having alluded to my uncanny draw toward: cultivation. of spirit, mind and dirt. (my ancestors were pastors, teachers and farmers so it's inescapable).

not to say i haven't got the whole eating thing down because i do. just this week i have eaten enough french-style crepes and italian pasta to blow the entire glycemic index completely out of the water.

praying has taken the form of poetry lately or picking up books and reading just the part i happened to be thinking about. staring counts. as does having someone on your mind or picking up the phone exactly when you are supposed to.

author of the book behind the movie, elizabeth gilbert admits to struggling with losing herself in people, things. the vulnerability is admirable. i think there is something in between this, however, and total isolation. i read this quote by eckhart tolle, "if you can sense an alert inner stillness in the background while things happen in the foreground--that's it! feeling your own presence and the presence of God."

as for loving. one word: LIFE. love it. having just come from a beautiful memorial service for a friend, i heard an amazing woman's voice sing a song she had written called "satisfied". (you can find more of her work at and so, friends, going from a three-word quest to one, i think that would be it: satisfied.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"he prayeth well, who loveth well
both man and bird and beast." --from coleridge's ancient mariner

is it prayer enough to love
the marvellous hexagonal
cells of bees

or notice sunflower spirals

measure day by nautilus shells
and finches' wings, stained glass dragonfly in flight

without a word, alone
and quiet in the mind

all the while within this
temple burning loud a praise
of beauty, wild?

Monday, August 9, 2010

math of God

"is it not possible that this x or y is the Mystery which orders the doings of ants and men, which moves the sun and other stars, as Dante recorded, across the Heavens--the Spirit, the Breath of God, Love Himself..." --harald in angels and insects by a.s. byatt

consider the parabola:
holy arc
and comet path

drop of spray
from waterfall
to prismic bow and back

a maker's mind
willing to distill
aesthetics here

with eyes
that bend, refract and


Sunday, August 8, 2010


tonight i had the privilege of hearing some very talented musicians who are also genuinely kind, sincere young men. their style merges classical with everything from hip-hop to movie soundtracks. because they wear headsets while they play, they can also provide their own rhythm section/beat-boxing! you can't help but have fun because of their shining spirits and contagious joy of music.

for more information, check out

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


beauty is startling. she wears a gold shawl in the summer and sells seven kinds of honey at the market. she is young and old at once, my daughter and my grandmother. in school she excelled in mathematics and poetry. beauty doesn't anger easily, but she was annoyed with that journalist who kept asking her about her favorites--as if she could have one favorite color or one favorite flower. she does not mind questions, though, and she is fond of riddles. beauty will dance with anyone who is brave enough to ask her.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


one of my disciplines this year has been "to notice". specifically the seasons and various plant life. i wanted to pay attention to the order of things. fruits...vegetables...spring flowers...timothy grass, hay and various wheats...which berries came first...when to pick peaches...the life cycle of poppies.

a striking hand-made card came in the mail yesterday from a lovely young lady i mentor. in it was the following, when you nurture nature, it returns the favor. she also wrote, every moment and every event of every person's life on earth plants something in her soul.

so later in the evening when i heard that a good friend had passed away, i was quietly surprised. surprised, but peaceful. not upset per se. but death, by nature, is always unsettling. i found myself cleaning things almost compulsively in an effort to bring order; make things right...under things, in forgotten corners, the microwave, behind the piano.
and then i remembered seasons. the image that came to mind was the beauty of a poppy at the end of it's life. the burgeoning red of first bloom is what always used to grab my attention. now i think the latter carries it's very own richness. to everything there truly is a season. peace, darleen, and thank you for your example of letting life unfold.

Monday, August 2, 2010

walking on alligators

"it may no longer be likely that you'll run away and join the circus. or explore the amazon river. not physically, that is. but the journey before you is equally challenging and compelling. you are a writer. you are going to take your readers on a journey; a journey through your own imagination. to do this, you must feel risk--real risk. you must overcome the voice that whispers, 'start tomorrow'. it is the voice of 'safety'--a certain kind of safety. safety, because to never try is to never really fail. real safety from failure is impossible. it isn't even desirable. writers take chances every day. that's because we are after something big. and big rewards are worth big risks."--susan shaughnessy, p. 38

Sunday, August 1, 2010

tour de france

after months of personal trainers, self-deprivation and strict regimens, we were ready. forget the iron man, this was iron mountain. the first several miles held a steep grade, but we persevered. surrounded by fierce competition, we sped around harrowing corners overcoming treacherous terrain but, cheered on by the crowds, we eventually came within sight of our goal. the coveted award of all pelotons. we came upon... la provence.

ok, before you become too impressed, my friend and i did something seriously fun to say hello to august. (bonjour, aout) we called it "3 B's": barista, biking and breakfast. basically, our very own tour de france. (or, a tour de force!) it's all about the fellowship and the food, right? if you want a great morning ride, meet up at st. honore's for a cappuccino. head around lake oswego and stop at the wonderful aforementioned french bistro for brunch on the patio. all in all, we think we did a whole 10 miles. (but it might have been 11!) and hey, we have a picture to prove it! we've already had requests to use our photo for next year's tour de france promotion, you know, t-shirts, posters and jerseys. what can we say? it's tough being this fit.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

separate. fill. rest.

july is my favorite month. june is unwinding from the school year and august is all about winding up for teaching again. but july is untouched, unhurried, untainted. ah, fair july i shall miss thee.

a phrase comes to mind when thinking about how to carry this beautiful rhythm into august and the new school year. as quoted to me by a friend summing up God's creation, "separate, fill, rest." first He separated: light from darkness, land from water. then He filled: stars, fish, plants, people and animals. and then He rested: by stopping long enough to appreciate beauty.

i like this phrase because it's simple and i can remember it. moments are coming soon when i may need to separate myself from the most urgent needs and people around me to find out what is most important. i will want wisdom to know how to most creatively and effectively fill the time i've been given. and enough space to rest and enjoy the view.

Friday, July 30, 2010

birds of the air

my goal for july was to blog every day. that would be a total of 31 entries. of which i am short. hence, sometimes more than one per day. so i want to write two more. for the first, if i were to sum up this month, i would entitle it "birds of the air."

growing up, we always had enough, but never extra. that continues to be true in my life and yet it is one of the best things that's ever happened to me. limited income (which has nothing to do with true wealth) invites us down a path of creativity and resourcefulness. as i was picking berries and saying hello to all the creatures (author's side note: yes, ala st. francis, i name animals and talk to them. the resident butterly is "flora" and the robin? "fred". i'm still coming up with a name for the deer) i was overcome with gratitude and started quoting parts of matthew 6 but in my own words ending with a form of contentment that exhuded, "life, i am in LOVE with you!" the harvest is so plentiful. just look at my mint garden (author's side note again: i was inundated with mint, so i bundled it into types and rigged a drying system on the south side of the house using a bamboo pole).

that is just one example of there always being enough to share. time, attention, produce... the in and outflow is constant: a vase of flowers to a friend, fresh cucumbers to czech friends who will not let me leave their home without giving me starts of rosemary, hand built pottery and farm fresh eggs in return for jars of jam. a bottle of wine here, some swapped clothes there and you have a true economy of community.

so what do you do when you can't just "charge it"? when you look into the pantry and see one yam with some random scatterings in the fridge department and someone is coming over for dinner? you make israeli cous-cous with garlic mustard aoli over sweet potatoes and garden greens. you put mint and blackberries in the blender and freeze them into ice cubes for a fun refreshing treat to add to sun tea. you throw some flour and sugar together over fruit and call it dessert. you make something out of not much.

you see something in the store and think, "ah! i could make that" and get together with friends to do so. instead of buying jewelry, you string together a mish-mosh of vintage pieces just to see what happens. i've known what it is to be able to shop and i've known days when i couldn't. but knowing the sharing that is enabled when we know we can't make it in isolation, i wouldn't have it any other way.

look in the sky! the birds do not work from 9-5 or get into debt. they never go hungry and there's no need to hoard because there's always enough.

got mint?


ok, ok, don't get excited.

it's all about the meteor.

a friend and i camped out last night but only saw 5 (ok, i saw one, she saw 4) but it was still fun! the best viewing is yet to come, august 11-13th.

welding vows

do you promise to wear gloves, hold the tools at a 45 degree angle and keep the face mask down?

i do.

today i had my first welding lesson from a man who has been perfecting his craft literally as long as i've been alive. he is a very kind and patient teacher, showing basic technique and then letting me play on my own at his worktable. once you get used to sparks flying at close range, it's really quite fun. and, like most things, much harder than it looks.

i made what one might officially call a "thing-a-ma-jig"; crooked pieces of metal scraps with three hooks on the bottom. it looks vaguely like something that would come from a bad sci-fi movie involving robots and the end of the world. but it reminds me that life is all about ever-learning by trying new things.

my friend says that it takes at least 2 years to earn a license and that i should be patient with myself after only 20 minutes. if you were to take a tour of portland, you would find his work on balconies, fountains and fences. i didn't just learn to weld today, i learned to appreciate master craftsmanship.

what metal man has joined together, let no one separate!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

play time

work, rest, play. i daresay there's not enough of the latter two in the world. it's no secret that i'm having the time of my life this summer. but these three months can be a bit challenging for parents who suddenly take on the role of "entertainment expert."

looking for some new outings? try the Gilbert House Children's Museum in Salem. There are GroupOn coupons available. with enough indoor and outdoor adventures, it may be just the trick not only for your kids, but for your inner child as well.

word du jour

kudos for today's lesson in vocabulary goes to yet another alert reader who sent the following word via email: jeremiad. my first thought? "maybe this is what happens to someone when they've read too many of the old testament prophets?" so, to avoid certain shaming by misuse, i looked it up.

jeremiad: noun, from the french jeremiade, 1780. a prolonged lament (see, it could be the prophets!) or complaint; also a cautionary or angry harangue (also a great word).

challenge to you: making up a sentence using "jeremiad"...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

weeding, writing and 'rithmatic

today i traveled vicariously to germany, the czech republic and ireland through people's stories and music without leaving portland. i also discovered i am a Dumb Potato Farmer, hereafter referred to as a DPF to save time. why am i a DPF?

well, while weeding i decided to check on the status of the 25' row of spuds that, after several weeks were doing nothing. absolutely nothing. had i planted them too deep? not enough water? so i dug one up and stared at it, thinking dejectedly to myself, "this spud's for you" and empathizing with farmers of the historic potato blight era. when i stumbled upon the local farmer's market later in the day i found two farmers who looked like they knew what they were doing.

"aww, them grocery store potatoes. they put inhibiting spray on 'em, won't grow a sprout to save your life, darn shame. what you need, missy is some good seed 'taters, but they're all gone by now. march, maybe april's your best bet. heck, i swoop 'em up whenever i see 'em in early spring."

since advice is never truly free i felt obliged to pay for it in the form of a jar of strawberry jam and, yes, a bag of potatoes that had not been sprayed with inhibitor and would lower my DPF status considerably. i would try again because i am stubborn and part irish. plus there is nothing like digging up potatoes in the fall; like tumbling buried treasure out of the earth. but i digress.

gardening is going pretty well, for this year anyway. writing? i wrote chapter 4 in a collection i've been working on. and math? the latest chapter i read in the divine proportion made absolutely no sense. i am still trying to figure out the formula that gives the book it's title.

all in a day's work.

Monday, July 26, 2010

a word from our sponsor

intellectual cafe

before i get started on the entry of the day, this just in from an astute reader via text message: "fun new word for the day that my son discovered, it is epizuexis which means the repetition of a word for emphasis." now that bears repeating!

this weekend i attended the portland meetup "intellectual cafe". completely out of my comfort zone and knowing only the friend i went with, i thought i would just eat, drink and be silent. the topic was "immigration". i've never been one to retain facts. i can write poems about them or notice how they affect people's feelings, but the latest news and legislature hasn't always been my cuppa.

about an hour into the discussion (which involved 20+ people of all types gathered around three huge wooden tables) i got brave. i said something. then i said something else. responded to the woman across from me. challenged the man to the side of me. rerouted the conversation back to the original question. it was fun! and i learned a lot about an otherwise foreign topic (no pun intended).

it made alot of sense along with this tidbit sent from another alert reader in terms of personality and development. i am an INFJ on myer's-briggs (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging) thus the emphasis on right brain, emotion, etc. but the transition to logic and facts can best be described:

"at midlife (that gave me pause, but whatever) an INFJ can best continue developing the thinking function in the form of logic and the pursuit of theory. the pleasure of taking a theoretical model and applying it to a situation may be a source of interest, which an INFJ may have been neglecting. while continuing to pursue the person-to-person in feeling type relationships, at midlife (they keep using that word, i do not think it means what they think it means!) INFJ's may want to get more involved in working with NT's (intuitive thinkers) who offer a dimension not dominant in NF's and vice versa."

left brain hemisphere, here i come...

Friday, July 23, 2010

the play's the thing

i have wondered from time to time, "where have all the shakespeares (and mozarts and thoreaus and dickinsons) gone?!" well, last night i found one.

my friend's daughter and friends put on a play in their backyard that she's been writing since 3rd grade--comarades, that's six years. and she wrote in all the humor, stage directions and two hours of amazing dialogue. she just loves to write and write some more (kind of like me with these blog postings!)

these highschoolers have spent every free minute for as long as my friend can remember getting ready for these summer productions, which run for three consecutive nights, have tickets and even concessions.

i've been to a lot of theater, even around the world, and i'm telling you this play was worth much more than $2. seeing the talent emerging from the next generation is priceless!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

dog mountain

now that i've taken a nice hot soak and applied some mentholated lotion, i'm ready to blog about dog mountain. realizing not everyone who reads this is blessed to live in the great northwest, nonetheless this hike is worth it!

i wasn't sure what to expect because the websites and hiking books say "difficult-strenuous" and mention words like poison oak and rattlesnakes. don't be deterred. if you're going, do bring exact change: a $5 dollar bill (we ended up having to put a $20 in but, it's for a good cause). it's about 8 miles round trip on a steep grade, but if you are in moderate-good shape, pace yourself and drink lots of water, it's fine. there is a lot of poison oak on the lower switchbacks, so just stay on the trail. saw lots of snake holes too (make lots of noise and don't sit on rocks or hidden logs).

the payoff? coming upon a sprawling field of wildflowers (may is best but there were still several in bloom this time of year, especially higher up) and your imagination can fill in the rest. once to the top, you can have lunch while simultaneously viewing st. helens, the gorge and mt. hood.

word girl

my friend maya gets blog time! she is one of the smartest young kids i know. everytime we play together, i say "so, what's the word of the day?" it's been everything from "preposterous" to "hypothesis" because this girl seriously delights in words. here are some quotes from her world to yours:

"lanette, you're going to love the word of the day, it's hilarious!"
"oh, cool, what is it?"
"i just told you."
"you did?"
"yeah, the word is 'hilarious'."
"ha ha, that's hilarious, maya!"
"no, no, no, it's the word of the day."

and...her latest "mellow" as in,

"mom, do you mind if i play mellow with the old silverware grammy gave you? i just love sorting silverware from olden times."

word girl has spoken.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the divine proportion

something is going on...first i start loving and understanding the logic of math. then i see pattern as the overarching principle of design for everything from nature and people to music and art. then my friend's husband (engineer) loans me a copy of "the divine proportion: a study in mathematical beauty" by h.e. huntley which is brilliant and absolutely transfixes me. that's only only after chapter one.

i want some time to think this summer. (as in someone calls and says "what are you up to?" and i say, "thinking".) and i have more than a feeling that time to read this book (small but pithy) will have a direct impact on what and how i teach art this year because it has everything to do with aesthetics.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

birthday buddy

fortunate enough to share a birthday season with someone you love? if so, what are some of your traditions?

i have a birthday twin; "soul sisters" we call each other (i was born on her 31st) who is still very much alive and i had a birthday buddy (my professor, mentor and friend who would be celebrating her 57th tomorrow, the day after mine). she called me her "21st birthday present" and for 15 years we celebrated the joys of not only shared, but shared SUMMER celebrations and thanked each other for being born at this time of year as if we had anything to do with it. and it was with her--for my own 21st--that i had my first champagne.

we also wrote letters for 15 years. not blogs or just emails, but real letters on cool stationery that required stamps. i've saved everything in a big vintage suitcase in my room. when i open it, it smells of lavendar and vanilla. mixed cassette tapes (yes, tapes!) tumble out along with a blend of sympathy cards, far-side comics, jane austen novels and grief workshop fliers. it smells somehow sweeter each time i crack open the lid but i still cry.

i got an e-card from her daughter today and i thought how sweet and how painful it might have been for her to send that to me knowing what tomorrow is. and i imagine their lives, how we all go on by some mysterious power, both propping and propelling us forward. sometimes when they laugh i look up and expect to see her, sitting at the table with Good Earth tea in hand.
then i blink and remember. but we still share the celebration and nothing can take that away. in the meantime, i guess our letters will just require supernatural postage. colleen, i still miss you.

the lips have it

ok. i want you to think about your favorite feature and why. (it's not narcissistic, it's interesting, go ahead...i just read a blog entry about a woman who didn't realize how much she liked her nose until her dog almost bit it off). maybe you've never given it much thought. i hadn't really until yesterday. a friend took me to nordstrom to have my lips done.

anything come to mind?

nordstrom, to me, is like a foreign country. i haven't been inside the doors since i started teaching because i get my makeup at walmart thankyouverymuch. that said, i seriously thought someone was going to ask me for my passport or something. i'm afraid that it will cost me money just to look at things because i have the curse of expensive taste. wide-eyed i was swooshed into the chair and surrounded by young, kind and fancy makeup artists. a bit disheveled from trying to get to the appointment on time, i was also due for a powdering which she deftly accomplished and then she said, "you have perfect lips."

"mmm...zanksss" (translated: oh, thanks! while trying to hold still)

"no, seriously," she continued, "i've done a lot of lips and yours are perfect."

"ah-ea?" (really? as in, does she say this to everyone?!)
i do have this little marilyn monroe mole just above my upper lip. my mom wanted me to have it removed for years out of fear it was cancerous. but it's not, it's just there and frankly, i'm too vain to want to have a scar above my lip, but i would if i had to.

"let's see what italian rose looks like on you." and it was beautiful.

later, italian rose in a bag swinging from my arm thanks to my friend, i felt beautiful. while putting my sandals back on at the fountain later, my big toe happened to land right in front of some grafitti on the bench that said, "you look beautiful today." it was surprising that such a small thing could have such an impact. and i appreciated the trip because it wasn't something that i would think of doing for myself.

so, what have you decided?

pony express

just another day in paradise to sleep in, brew coffee, pick fresh blueberries...i turned 36 today and celebrated by having my family over. since i like to host, we grilled and finished off with cobbler. i even found the baseball glove dad gave me when i was 10 and we played catch in the backyard. a few rounds of lawn darts...

...when my neighbor came down the driveway on her horse (a purebred morgan no less) calling out "pony express, special birthday delivery!" to hand me my card and ask if i wanted a ride. now, i've been feeding and helping to care for this horse, anastastia or "stasia" for short, for about 15 years now, but have never actually ridden her. i've loved horses all my life and have absolutely no fear of ordinary barn or trail horses. purebreds with arabian in them? well, i'd like to live at least another 36 years.

today it hit me: i've been afraid of this beautiful chocolate brown wonder because she is too much like me--full of fire, passionate, spirited, strong-willed. and horses know when you're afraid, in this case, of myself. yes, i am uneasy about those very same things in me. so to be able to ride her today was significant. to turn 36 and not only not be afraid of yourself, but to feel quietly confident about your own strength under control? now that's a happy birthday surprise indeed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

mortified, live

today was filled with adventures in words. for starters, i got to teach an aspiring writer all about the hero's journey at our tutoring session. (who knew there were so many parallels between despereaux and jesus?!)

and the day closed with tickets to see "mortified" at the mission theater. where else can you hear real portlanders reading from their high school journals!? ( we laugh because who hasn't written, "i tried not to fall for you but it didn't work" or "tonight they held my hand for the first time...sigh".

so, question for you. would you get up in front of a sold out house and read--unedited--from your junior high and high school journals (including really bad poetry about your first crush?) enquiring minds want to gives the hero's journey a whole new meaning!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

quelle zoo

today i went to the zoo.
and rode the train.

(i swear i have a 12-year old girl trapped inside this 36-year old body.)

the crocodile is dauntingly awesome in his statuesque patience and the baby elephant reminds me of my childhood favorite "babar".
what is your favorite story from when you were little?

city of your final destination

i took myself out to living room theaters last night, one of my favorite places to see a great film. i love seeing movies with others and going out to talk about them afterwards, but i also--depending on the show--enjoy going solo and staying in my own head.

"the city of your final destination" is about a professor trying to gain authorization to write a biography on a recently deceased author. he doesn't take no for an answer, even traveling to visit the family. once authorization is finally granted, he realizes that's not what he's supposed to be doing with his life at all.

there's a biography i'd really like to write too. on the drive home, though, i thought more about it from different angles. maybe i too am missing something. maybe my original destination isn't where my writing is designed to turn up afterall?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

angels and insects

while i was reading via lantern light in my backyard camp spot last night, i learned a new word (o happy day). it is "inimical". as in the context, "there was, in this region, something inimical about the vegetation itself" (p. 35) of angels and insects by a.s. byatt.

inimical means hostile or having to do with enemies. (wow, i'd hate to run into inimical vegetation, but now that i think of it, i have).

i shall try, dear readers, to use it in a sentence today. you know, work it into ordinary conversation. like, "wow, it's really hot today, pretty inimical wouldn't you say?" or "what a great movie! i found the antagonist very inimical, however." or, for lack of better etymology, "wow, that outfit is wicked inimical!" (blame the last one on summer teacher brain).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

down to earth

today i had the privilege of visiting with a real farmer. my relatives were down from canada and stopped for a visit. as soon as he got out of the car he walked right to our tractor. he is old school without being old fashioned. he knows all about crop rotation and is up to speed on modern agriculture wars and the tragic industrialization of america's food. we talked about "food inc." the movie and about what the word "organic" really means. in between singing the praises of good topsoil, he can tell you the cure for every plant disease and best means for livestock health. he still believes in letting the ground rest every 7 years and found that, through the years, it actually boosted his production and finances in the long run.

he is a dying breed, one of the last great real men of the land. (you haven't had breakfast until gerald has made you his speciality multi-grain cereal). he is someone you want to have strong brewed coffee with around a campfire, for he can spin a tale like no one else. the man has pluck, wit, verve...he's simply refreshing and, quite literally, down to earth.

Monday, July 12, 2010


i've been thinking alot about repetition and design. patterns are everywhere: math, nature, people, art...they are a basic principle of design and how we learn to understand the world. even the breaking of one can still be a pattern. here's a poem playing with the concept.

"most everyone is lousy at math and does that to God--dissects the Indivisible One."--hafiz

i am a principled design
training your eyes
to find the difference
at first blink
from there collecting probabilities
a structured framework
on which to stand
a while
the day i'm broken (let me be) or
clustered in the rule of odds is
when you dare to rearrange
the furniture of God
and in doing so you still have
nothing on the spider web
collect the fragments as you will
it's all the same to me


i can tell i've entered vacation mode because my blog has turned into a portland cultural resource page. just one more event for now, i promise, then back to poetry and words.

chamber music northwest! tonight's baroque concerto night was pure, sonorous bliss. there are still plenty of concerts in their summer lineup. you too can sit on the lawn of reed college and spit cherry pits. i'm just sayin'.