Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I was thinking
as I drove home
in two laned traffic
putting along at 5 miles per hour...
about all the things I KNEW in high school.

I was a bright kid
who knew math and science
and history and literature.

Well rounded academically
and I scored well on those blasted standardized tests.

No social skills, but many marbles in my head.

In college I jumped off the academic track
and coasted in non-challenging yet interesting classes
and worked on figuring out a few social skills.

Seminary, for all its academic challenge
was still much more about learning who I was
and how to live in the world.

These days, all that science and math from high school
seem but a distant, vague memory.

I remember knowing things
but I don't know them any more.

Funny thing,
I'm a lot happier than I was in high school.

The people I visit
demonstrate to me
that in a few years
I will know far less
than I know now.

It is the natural progression of life.

As time goes on,
I only ask to remember these things:
and a sense of the divine holding the world gently.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ernie, Part Three

Well, my man Ernie
is taking his medicine with relatively little fuss.
For a cat.
He does flatten himself to the floor
when I grab at him,
but he shows up on time
and sticks around enthusiastically
for the canned food that follows.
I think he feels better.
We start the thyroid medicine soon.

I've been blogging in my head this week,
but have had little computer time.
Too much living to write about it.
I'm sure I'll catch up as the summer grows hotter.

This week we got the last of the summer veggies planted,
played with visiting children,
cleaned house,
went to work,
attended various services and meetings at church,
cooked out for Memorial Day,
read books (some just for FUN)
and planned next week's Arizona jaunt.

All in all, a pretty good week here in NC.

If you look closely at this picture of Ernie
you can see some of Daisy's beany babies in the floor
behind him.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Skinny Old Man, Ernie, Part TWO

For picture of Ernie, see PART ONE.

For the last few months, Ernie has been losing weight.
'Tis not for lack of appetite. He loves his food.
Concerned that his old teeth might be a problem,
we've fed him increasing amounts of canned food,
for which he cries and sings and begs.

This week, after an odd "out of litter box" experience,
we hauled his butt to the vet.
Beyond a bladder infection (hence the displaced pee)
the vet thinks he has an overactive thyroid.

He's lost almost three pounds,
from his previous lanky 11.5.

We're currently giving oral antibiotics twice daily,
(fun for the whole family)
and waiting for thyroid test results to come back.

Thankfully, he is not diabetic, like dearly departed Oscar.

Daisy, the younger cat,
helped put him in his carrier
for the trip to the vet.
She tried to get in the cat box
while he tried desperately to stay out of it.
When Ernie was finally wrestled into the carrier,
Daisy leapt on top and waved her paws around
right outside his face.
He was NOT HAPPY. Much hissing and sputtering.

We're all feeling a little better now.
At least, until the next dose of antibiotic...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

For a Daily Fix

Right now,
the best daily blog going
is in French,
but it is all about
the gorgeous pictures.
Flowers and bugs, baby.
Flowers and bugs.

Be sure to check
the Curieux Jardin link
if you haven't lately.

Coming Soon...

I just mowed the yard and dug around in the garden,
so I don't have it in me right now
to download the pictures from the camera
and do the whole full scale blog thing.

But...for you crazy addicts who check the page daily
and have seen the same entry for a week...


Beach pictures from my whirlwind trip to Florida last week.
Garden pictures as the peas bloom
and the potato plants reach enormous proportions
and the corn and squash and beans and sunflowers sprout.

Further upcoming ramblings
about the random deep and shallow thoughts
that race through my mind
as I putter along at work,
in the garden,
at home.

Right now my mind is clear and empty.
Both delightful and alarming.
More on the hollow gourd between my ears

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Nothing quite as profound as the title might suggest.
Last weekend we went to Charlotte
to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

Almost the opposite of my visit to Qumran...
the exhibit was cool and dark, to avoid
exposing the scrolls to light
any more than necessary.
Qumran was desert...bright and sandy.
(Remind me to share memories some time
of floating in the Dead Sea...need to hook up
a scanner so I can show old photos.)

Fascinating on Sunday to see Biblical texts
1000 years older than any thing else that has been found.
We also saw fragments of the community's rule,
of apocryphal and pseudopigraphal writings
(stuff that didn't get put in the Bible,
for those of you needing less technical translation).

Texts from the years between the writings
of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament
that referred to the "Son of God."
Helpful to see that such language
about a Messiah figure was floating around
in the religious culture of that time.

Even more fun was the IMAX movie about the Nile.
My favorite part was at the source of the Nile
in Ethiopia. They showed an Ethiopian
Christian church carved out of a solid piece
of rock, immense and incredible.
One of the wonders of the world.
They showed a religious ceremony,
people expressing their Christian faith
with dance and drum and bright clothing.

Not the Ethiopia we usually see on tv.
Vivid, lively people, expressing their faith with joy
and hospitality.

We ended our little pilgrimage
eating supper with a friend who lives in Charlotte.
Our annual eat on Mother's Day
at an Indian restaurant.
For some reason, Indian food is not the first choice
of southern American families on Mother's Day.
No crowds or lines, but ooooh, delicious.

So...a visit to Israel, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and India.
Spanning over 2000 years.
All in a two hour car ride. Not bad.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Summer Vegetables and Flowers

Just for the sake of record keeping,
since I can't put my hands on my garden journal
without a search this morning...

Yesterday we planted three rows of corn,
one row of beans,
one hill of yellow squash,
one hill of luffa gourds,
and a bed of sunflowers.

I also sprinkled some old foxglove seeds
in the front flower beds.

All the while, the chickadees
flew in and out of the bird box
on the grapevine pole,
greeted each time by a ruckus
of baby birds fussing and singing.

They worked harder than we did,
and I'm a little sore this morning.

Happy Mother's Day
to all chickadees everywhere.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Monster Blocks, II

Before you get too excited,
I need to tell you that Monster Blocks
(from Moodology 101)
are currently unavailable in stores,
or on the internet, or ANYWHERE.

So...this is not an advertisement
or a product placement.
Just a commentary.

My nephew, Mason, received two barrels
of Monster Blocks for his second birthday.
They are like giant legos with googly eyes.

Turns out, two year olds dig Monster Blocks.
Seven year olds dig Monster Blocks.

And when the children go to bed,
the thirty-nine year olds
just can't keep their hands off the Monster Blocks.
There is some deep satisfaction
of the snug click that accompanies
the assembly of various googly eyed monsters.

As you can probably tell,
I went shopping after I got home
to no avail.
Mostly I was shopping for presents for other children.

Despite my recent campaign or crusade
against materialism,
against the accumulation of stuff
in corners, in piles, in drawers, everywhere,
I do still believe in the simple satisfactions
of play.

You are never too old to play.

Monster Blocks

Friday, May 12, 2006

Technical Difficulties

Well, I tried to post happy pictures to my blog
earlier in the week,
but the blogbrain out in computerland
was having none of it.

So, after a blogless few days,
I went out this evening
to dig a flower bed,
back between the garden, the back fence
and the wee grapevine.

Aside from the weary task of pulling up lawn,
there were huge chunks of concrete block,
brick and assorted rocks down below the surface.

I filled the wheelbarrow with rocky solids.

I'm tired, but later, when the sunflowers tower
in the back of the yard,
it will be SO WORTH IT.

Plus, think of the exercise I got...
and the soul cleansing smell of
fresh turned dirt...
should be a peaceful sleep tonight.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Why the Levite Crossed the Road

(Luke 10:29-37)

The first time it happened, I was sure I knew what was coming. I was at the church after most people had left, and a fellow wanted to talk to "one of the priests." The property chairperson, who'd been locking up, brought him to me, since I was "kind of like a priest." I sat down with him, ready for the song and dance, and was pleasantly surprised. He had a dream he was supposed to tell a priest. He wanted no money, no food, no pity. He just wanted to tell his dream so he could finish his quest.

It happened again today, same situation, only this time the man who came needed lots of time and lots of resources. I felt my stress level rocketing, for a couple reasons. One, in this church, I am not on staff. I don't have any discretionary fund, I don't have much sense of where the closest shelters and food sources and resources are. I never give out cash. I'm not a lot of practical help.

Two, it takes me back to a church office in downtown Miami, to my two years listening to long, drawn out, manipulative stories, all aimed at making me feel guilty so people could shake me down for what they wanted or needed. Not just occasionally, but people lined up at the door of the church, every day, every week. Story after story after story from people hardened from years on the street. At some point in Miami, I stopped caring about the stories. Too often they were told, not because the people felt a need to tell them, but because people felt a need to get something else, and the stories were just a well rehearsed tool.

I got to the point where I didn't care about the story. I just wanted to know what people needed. If I could help them find resources to get something, I would, regardless of the tale. If I couldn't find the resources, they had to go somewhere else.

There is a death of a certain level of compassion when people habitually shake you down. There is a loss of honesty, as people share horribly intimate things, simply as a means to an end.

The fellow today was nice enough. I was willing to help if I could when he walked in the door. I had to sit and listen to the wandering weave and dance of his story for the better part of an hour before he could hear that.

These days, for my work, I listen to people's stories every day. I listen with all the attention I have in me, because it is all about the story. Their need is the telling. They are not trying to get food or housing or cash from me. It is amazing privilege to share the telling.

I guess the song and dance of someone trying to convince you to give them resources feels kind of like prostitution, especially when they share painful memories and recent tragedies.

I wish we could just transact the actual request and supplying of food or shelter or whatever, without all the talk...and that they could share their stories as much or as little as they would with me, a stranger, because of the need of sharing a story, and that need alone.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Materialism and Murder

Sooooo grateful to be home
and in jeans
at the end of a long day, long week.

The gentle rain outside is great for the garden,
but not so good for working in the garden,
which is just as well,
because I'm tired.

Will noodle around the house,
work on continuing the rearranging
and decluttering (my resolution from January).

Play a little mandolin,
get ready to teach Sparky about Acts in Sunday School.

I'm broadcasting my interest in a piano...
had a close call at work.
Mentioned I was wanting a piano
and got a lead
and called soon after another coworker
bought the piano for a grandchild. never know.
I'll keep asking around.
My piano is out there somewhere.

Other than the rather large item
of a piano and the rather small
packet of corn seeds for the garden,
I am trying to not bring any more treasures
into the house.

What an oddly priviledged life,
when one has to work
at stirring around in the clutter
of books and papers and belongings,
and has to make an effort
not to make impulse buys--
because my basic needs are met
and I lack the edge of hunger
to keep me focused on the needs of others.

Today I sat in the nursing home
with one of my delightful ladies
who told me her life story
as people murdered each other
on her television set
on what we would consider
G-rated, midday shows.

What kind of culture is this?
Materialism, murder and mayhem.

The American way.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


My last visit of the day
was with a charming, articulate woman
living in a nursing home not far from here.
She told me the story of her husband's death,
from the time of his illness,
to the last time he played the piano for her,
to his hospitalization and death.
She talked openly about the shifting emotions
over the last few years...
from the time where she could not bear to see his picture
to the bittersweet mixed emotions of the present.

I came home from that visit
and turned on the computer,
only to find out the very youngest member of my church
lacked the lung capacity after only 26 weeks of gestation
to stay with us more than a few hours.

People ask me how I bear the grief
of working for hospice.
The truth is, while I carry my patients with me
and remember them and miss them,
their deaths usually ride lightly in my heart.

It is the grief of their families,
the ones that remain behind,
that reduces me to wells of tears (and snot)
and leaves me feeling raw.

So often this feels to me like a weakness,
but perhaps our capacity to grieve
and to grieve with others in their time of loss
is our most human strength.

The thing that I most love about
imagining and understanding Jesus
as God in human form,
is not the fact that he was able to raise Lazarus
from the dead,
but the fact that this human expression of the divine
wept with Lazarus's family
in their time of inconsolable grief.

So I have these dual mental pictures
of my Vacation Bible School image of Jesus
laughing and bouncing baby Hoot on his knee up in grassy heaven,
even as I see that same Jesus
sitting silently with Blake and Cindy
with tears pouring down his kind
and broken-hearted face.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Isn't She Lovely?

I realized that I hadn't
put up a good picture of Mimi
since the trip to Indiana...
as much as I love the picture of her
at the sliding glass door posted a few days back.

Spring Cleaning

I blogged on Saturday
about dusting and moving furniture
and working on getting rid
of an entire bookcase worth of books.
I tried to post my blog
and it got sucked up in cyberspace,
leaving nothing but the title,
which I then deleted.

I decided to move on to other projects.

I'm finding decluttering to be as exciting
as shopping for more things with which to clutter...
more exciting, really, because I don't have to leave home
and it doesn't cost me any money.

I'm so pleased with the new arrangement
of furniture in my bedroom.
So energized to start ripping up carpet
in the front two bedrooms.

Also excited about garden progress and plans.
Ate spinach and lettuce this weekend...
no caterpillars discovered in the process.

Soon...beans and tomatoes and corn and squash.
Lovely summer veggies.

Sad to go back to work today,
when I'd love to stay home puttering--
but I know when I get going
how much my work will deepen my soul
even as it replenishes my little checkbook.

Off to work, then.