Saturday, February 27, 2010

sticks, stones

all of these bare branches and nests i've been seeing; all of this early spring pruning metaphor?

up with the dawn and being extra grateful to be alive today, i followed the sound of the creek in search of pussy willows.

a stone altar stands in the path, reminding me of signposts in our lives; times when faithfulness stood ground. grabbing a stray blackberry vine to steady myself across the log bridge only later did i notice it had cut into my hand. for i found myself, mud boots inch deep in fertile spring, surprised and surrounded by flowering blossoms.

"for He grew up before Him like a tender shoot" wrote the prophet Isaiah.

we get to be here. thank you that i get to be here for my appointed time. oh how you know what it's like to live here too.

on the return trip i grabbed a pile of those bare branches from the burn pile and set them up along the stair railing to my loft, bringing the outside in.

name Him, dare.
break not one of His bones.
lenten love notes in sticks, stones.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


our tree branches are pruned out here in the orchard.

i had no agenda today and it made me slightly uneasy. i mean there was nothing. usually i have a plan for if there is nothing; with how i am going to fill it, but today the day simply was, a day with the late winter sunlight streaming in the window.

that sounds great, you might be thinking, do you know how much i have to do!? i didn't say i didn't have plans. being agenda-less, however, the things i thought would happen didn't and vice-versa.

it wasn't enough just to be alive. i know that sounds ungrateful, but i became acutely aware of all that i cling to for my significance; how i arrange myself into importance and control my sense of infrastructure for security.

lent is uncomfortable.

especially when i see what i thought was such an essential branch of my life cut off and sprawled lifeless on the ground.

lent is awkward.

especially when i feel like my trunk is jagged and asymmetrical.

lent is a time of exposure.

especially when i feel my bark stripped of things i thought i deserved or wanted so much.

my imposter self wants to run right past all this nothingness and skip to the next thing, force something to happen. but my most authentic self knows that love prunes. and fruit comes.

lent is love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

first light

warmth of water rising
as a grand exhale escapes
earth's womb,
embedded layers no longer

awakes my sudden gratefulness
awkward as new calves
to skipandfallandskip again

on spring's bare legs

Monday, February 15, 2010

city rose

the window display couldn't have been fancier. and she could not have been more homeless. that's the five-second impression my mind's camera snapped as we raced across the street to our evening venue.


it's true there are no God-forsaken places. but there are church-forsaken places. this fact alone made me appreciate all the more that a well-known spiritual speaker would choose a theater in a sketchy part of portland for his event.


even waiting for the doors to open we, albeit passively, participated in our environment. "hey good lookin' got a debit card?" we were asked, "because i promise that if you give it to me, i will only use as much as i need. how you doin' tonight. gotta cigarette? wow, are you good lookin'!"


but it was the woman wheeled up in front of the window that gave me pause. completely tattered, mismatched, disabled, marginalized. and behind the glass nothing but hearts, gems, flowers, candy.

possessing everything.


"you know you can never rest until you've brought truth out of all the distortion and beauty out of all the mess--but it's agony while simultaneously being the most wonderful and rewarding experience in the world--and that's the creative process which so few people understand. it involves an indestructable sort of fidelity, an insane sort of hope, and indescribable sort of,'s love, isn't it?!

you can't create without waste and mess and sheer undiluted slog. you can't create without pain. so in the end, every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discard, everything has meaning.

i give it meaning. i reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me."

--character harriet (ceramic artist) in susan howatch's novel series

Saturday, February 13, 2010

owl song

tonal dance of twilight
still me toward the trees
and call of forest thick,
beam of leaves inhabit these
marimbas of the night:
reward enough
for drawing up your knees
and leaning into

Thursday, February 11, 2010

creative consumption

if you know me, you know i love to eat. (i didn't always, but being over that hiccup as a recovering perfectionist, i have made--i daresay--more than a full return to make up for lost time.) food is amazing and involves cooking and sharing meals with friends, God's grand design of the Feast.

and the Feast is more than overeating. it can become a celebratory, even incarnational act. as part of a consumer society, this is as foreign to us as the Fast.

i shared a related idea with my high school art students recently: that of the balance between consumption and creation. what, in the form of new ideas, are we taking in vs. what we are putting out? my art group helps me with this rhythm in my own life in terms of the creative cycle 1) ideating 2) creating 3) reflecting 4) resting.

i will typically have several projects of varying intensities going on simultaneously. and sometimes, the field of my creative output needs to lay fallow and Sabbath for a while.

in the meantime, i feast. lately i have found tasty morsels in the following:

-Oregon Symphony's performance of Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Wagner
-cds East Mountain South and Above the Golden State
-book "Here If You Need Me" by Kate Braestrup
-"Sleeping With Bread" (spiritual practice of examen)
-movie "Bright Star" about poet John Keats

what's feeding you lately and what are you cooking up for others?


honest living is all about integrated tones, the "both-and" of later life that moves in on the more "either-or" of zealous youth. my latest paradox has been "give yourself permission to winter in with the season and yet keep moving." i used to shake the tree of life for answers. now i am content to sit under it awhile.

sometimes words get stuck in the heart and move upward to the voicebox. it took my 12-string guitar and some piano time to most recently release this song:

is this what happens now/when your soul's gone a thousand miles
and the light's gone out at home/except for yours
it's a simple day to day/when i'm rising with each sun
notice the creek keeps moving on/and i will too

you are the essence/you are my life
you push me forward/when i'm so tired
and i don't know what's next except for you
so i keep moving/i keep moving on

and i don't know what's next except for you
no i don't know what's next/i don't have to

bare branches

i collect words like birds collect string. i play with them, letting them roll off my tongue. i learn new ones, if it is a good day. and i use them to build a life; to make sense out of an otherwise random assortment of weekly twigs. they are my tool, my consolation, my clear and present home.

winter has me counting nests in bare branches. meticulously constructed havens that, always there, are now visible. and they are empty. with spring's tender foilage come also the eggs. the ones that thrive, saved from falls and predators, are elevated enough to live and grow to build their own.

may you find rest here in my perch among the limbs.