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.