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.