Tuesday, September 27, 2011


there is nothing so besotting as the slow
release of daybreak -- bright patina seeping
from the sun swollen arms
spilling out to a sleeping world,
waking, informing.

Consider Jacob, a mere mortal -
wrestling all night
with God.

And for what strange purpose?

Wrestling holds apathy at bay.
Suffers the questions.
Suffers the answers.
Names our brokenness and
all our small disasters,
ennobles our slow perpetual limping.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Eyes are For

In order to identify the speck in your eye, I must align it with the self-pixelated grain of the beam in my own. Were I not exceedingly familiar with the warp and woof of the beam's bark in my eye, I would have no frame of reference. And because the beam in my eye obscures my vision, I misjudge the magnitude of the speck in your eye. Combined with the view of the beam in my eye your speck seems enormous. Having failed to order my "dominion", I violate yours. If you treat me as I have treated you, both of us will escape the transformative agony of emerging from our mutual shields and being seen and loved for who we are. We will miss God's healing glance delivered through each other's eyes and waste the purpose of our sight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My first painting

Vacationing along the Northern California coast on a shoestring budget, I found some cheap paper and a child’s watercolor set at a hardware store. At the grocery store, I remembered how green beans mkae the most glorious Kelly green brine, and of coffee’s rich indelible stain. I remember cringing at the waste of beet’s crimson juice spilling across white porcelain, disappearing down the drain. Back at the cabin, I made a strong cup of coffee, drained the beans and beets. Creating my own pigment gave me freedom to risk a flop. The image in my head was infantile. A heart. A simple shape. Disarmingly whimsical. I experimented with the stroke of a brush. Crimson juice bleeds into the paper, creating its own indiscernible shape. I didn't know how to make the paint stop and start. I tore the shape of the heart, about 12 inches across. Big seemed appropriate. On the diagonal I tore it in two. If I had been braver or weaker I would have torn it to tiny shreds - that's how I was feeling. Torn. I crumpled the two sides, dipped the crumpled balls in the beet juice. Spread them back out, careful to leave the wrinkles intact. I bruised it with lavender paint from the paint box. I glued the halves to another piece of paper, then tore new lengths of paper, dipped them in green bean juice or coffee and placed them around the edges - a mock frame. My first comment: “Looks kind of lop-sided.” And then a question: “Is it supposed to be so wrinkled?”

During the night, I got up to see how the colors changed while drying. The heart seemed to speak for me, “I’m not as strong as I appear.” As the art slowly revealed itself, gradually changing ever so slightly, I was mysteriously comforted, as if a small piece of passionate longing was being returned to me. In the days that followed, I explored books on art. Betty Edwards in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” describes: “A drawing can let you see how you feel. Putting that another way, the right brain, by means of drawing, can show the left brain what the trouble is.”

Though my images were crude, I understood them and what was more startling wss they seemed to understand me, to explain me. I painted a woman rising from a hair follicle, children playing with a bear, a progressively deepening image of a woman sprouting a flower from a heart in her head. My art said what I was still too fragile to utter. The woman in place of the hair follicle refused her role as a hair. She was emerging, risking. A woman to be reckoned with. I became incrementally braver - like the wise children with the bear. They knew the bear was unpredictable, kind now, vicious in a twinkling. They still approached it. The woman with the flower sprouting from the heart in her head could not yet risk clarity. Habitually avoiding the painful, the coward in me often denied what Augustine summed up as “the whole life of the good Christian” as “a holy longing.” My art admits my longing. It is my confession; an axe to pretense, causing pain at the surprise of how much I need. Art reveals the peaks and valleys of real life. What do I do with all this longing? These conflicted feelings - I want intimacy without exposure, recognition AND anonymity - are mirror and flashlight, a peek at my hidden selves. A light that threatens more than the dark.

Art takes me out of Eve’s proverbial bushes, the deadening foliage of approval-seeking, closet-stuffing, mask-donning. In “The Sacred Romance”, John Eldridge says, “The true story of every person is not the story you see, the external story. This journey first takes us on a search for the lost life of our heart.”

If “being follows imagination” as Thoreau insisted, I should be encouraged. Art helps me put flesh, add color and shape to the unnamed shadows within me. My art brings light, and therefore, life to what I have deadened myself against: loneliness, powerlessness, alienation. I move from the cold shadow of faux contentment into stark honesty. Usually it does not go well. It is worse than I think. I am poor in spirit. I hunger. I thirst. I won’t be able to make it on my own. God does not refute me, dismiss me or minimize my need. God joins me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's challenge

Today I suggest you might consider which idealogical Group you would most like to be a heretic among and image the kind of bouquet you might bring to the gathering. Though an assortment of flowers is a possibility and not a bad one, there are other bouquets as well. What kind of bouquet would compell those at odds with your ideaology?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


What happened to her was
a mistake, completely
unintentional. When people
with poor eyesight mingle
with those with selective
hearing accidents happen.

The blow came out of nowhere
and slammed against her right temple.
It was as sudden as it was quick.
Shock waves radiated through
to the place ineptly referred
to as the heart. Not the vessel of
ventricles and veins but the immutable
core of her foundation.

In the melee she was certain
she’d lost her face. Acting upon
what she thought was true, made
it true. Mirrors were of no use.
The sting of the blow distorted
her vision.

The loss of her face affected
not only her but the whole world.
If you stop and think about it, the
world suffers in the wake of lost

Her search was one of seasons
out of order. Of Summers

Of winters resisting.

Of Autumns reluctantly

Although Spring came
and went with its predictable
fevers, the time of its arrival
and the stint of its stay was
all a curious gamble.

Years passed and in their
passing, she could not
remember what she once knew.
The pain of misremembering
was too much. So she numbed
herself as best she could and
lived in a place of dreams. Her
dreams were her friends. They
tried to inform her, to show
her the true shape of her
face. But so much time had
passed in the absence of her
knowing that she failed to
understand how to benefit
from what
seemed too long

One day she happened upon
Hush, Shush and Silence. They
came out of nowhere. The three
of them – naked and unassuming.
At first they pointed her away
from herself and then
turned her around. They
told her what she didn’t
remember forgetting.

“You did not conceive
yourself - neither did your mother,
even less your father. You arrived
by way of your mother, by way of
your father, but you were featured
and breathed by God.”

These words brought her
to her knees. Collapsing in
a pool of her own salted waters,
she beheld her forgotten face.
She was more
beautiful and
marred than
she imagined.

This was a snatching moment,
A moment of rapture.
A moment of everything being
restored. First and foremost,
her view of God and next the
view of herself. Once she saw
God truly, the conflicted
view of herself held no sway.

And then she could see
other things, darkness
as well as unending
light. She could see
simple things and things
complex beyond all

Her sight gave her inexplicable
wings. Suddenly, she was a woman
of triplicate choice. She could
either choke on her freedom,
languish beneath it or
launch herself beyond the known.

She chose the latter,
Springing up through
a compression of regrets
and longings, the
impossible bloom of
herself arose. There in its
shade she vowed to love
herself as much
as she loved others.

This vow was
instantly tested in a
mighty rain. This rain
was not the ilk of
thunderheads, but the ilk of
what others confused her
to be and the temptation
to act on their confusion.
Once it erupted,
it continued to erupt.

Bent on freedom, she wove
a rope from what had long been
covered and bore the
blossom of her true self along.

Naturally, her strength waned.
She admitted her lack and
become gloriously small, little to
the point of greatness. Caught up
by the buzz of all she was not and the
sweetness of pretention ceased, she
was carried skyward.

And then she was placed
high with the wind powerless
against her. Here she threw off
her shoes. Glimpsing back and
gazing ahead, she got big

With her arms she made a steeple.
With her legs, a harp. She let herself
cry and extended herself
for the harvest of her tears.

The crop was a song
of remembrance. In a rush
of a million wings, a trillion
seeds, countless petals and
bulging pods, it sustained
her. It was the song waking things
sing and waking things perceive.
The music itself became
a kind of ravishing mirror.
Gazing into it she would
remember the faces once
long forgotten.
God’s first and
then her own.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Second Chance

Wrote about her once.
Quick words, scared onto the page.
left her on the edge of a river.
skirts hiked up past her knees,
Didn't say how far. Didn't say:
past her thighs, past her waist,
up to her shoulders. Exposing
breast, belly, those things.
Mentioned the swirl of her skirt
around her shoulders, tightening
at the neck. Blinding her. No
way she could use her arms.
Couldn't see a thing. Nothing.

A second chance is needed here.
She needs to walk away instead
of back into, she needs to already
know what was not safe.

The water for instance.
In the water or on the water.
She needs to stick
to the hills, not the hills
themselves but the swell of
merciful rising.

She needs to go to the curves of
the land, to the declivities where
water waits to be discovered.
A different kind of water.

She needs to find the ancient
glad path, the path
covered over,
waiting to be cleared.
The path through meadows
void of shame, through
gold shadows, not the color of
bruises, not the color of law.

The path through hills blossoming grace,
safe from the flat cold
strike of a false solid shore
flanking bitter water flowing dry,
pretending to slack thirst,
pretending to cleanse.

A second chance is needed
to get it right.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Relying on Others

The setting sun flanked by conical clouds looks like melting candy corn and for a moment looks like becomes is. Of course, it's not candy corn. She knows this but does she know this?

She's told that the sun is an enormous fire. She believes it is an enormous fire because it comes out with the heat of the day. Or when it's cold, not at all. But perhaps relying on others for proof that the sun is a fire and not an enormous piece of candy corn infused with dry ice is like relying on others to explain God as a Father and expect to be comforted. For this moment, she will maintain her own opinion. She will declare the sun as candy corn infused with dry ice. And God will say "What an amazing mind you have." And she will allow the inadequate description of Father to pertain to God..

Monday, June 20, 2011

What a Great Day to Be Dominated By GOD

The Man Watching
By Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Living here is like occupying

a five digit glove with a rickety

staircase spanning the palm.

Of course it takes courage

and some days courage hides in

the pinkey and the only way

to access it is to maneuver

the rickety staircase.

On those days, which are almost

every day, it is a waste to struggle

towards courage. I have to

bask in the contentment of the index.

And that takes some expertise on basking.

First off, I have to cease envy of the

middle. The middle is completely staid

but certain. Even using the word staid gets

me off track, correction, puts me in the ring.

The ring leads astray. The ring doesn’t

really give an accurate picture of security. Single

or married, living here takes guts and guts can

only be had by sticking out the thumb.

The thumb once bought me a ride out of

the Swiss Alps. Without the thumb I would

still be there, wandering around like Julie

Andrews without the glamor of the Von Trapps.

As it was, I stuck it out and it managed to show

up in a poem. Like this one.

Some rare days the glove curls

into a fist and I can’t make sense

of anything. But I can still write.

I can hand off words like

fingernails on a blackboard.