Showing posts from January, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Change the World with Your Good Intentions

Over breakfast the other day, a friend and I were discussing the ways in which perceptions create reality: "If this is how I see things, this is how they are." Her workplace is full of gossips heavily invested in the world their perceptions create for themselves and others. Our conversation brought me back to reading Benjamin Hoff's The Te of Piglet in which Hoff addresses this idea by citing Nadezhda Mandelstam's memoir of Stalinist Russia, Hope Against Hope . Mandelstam points out that the realist literature of the late 19th century was a response to the pretense and dishonesty of people who pretended to be good. "The unexpected result of this kind of critical writing was that kind people disappeared. Kindess...has to e cultivated, and this only happens when it is in demand. Everything we have seen in our times--the class...warfare, the constant 'unmasking' of people, the search for an ulterior motive behding every action--all this has taught us to be

Can You See Beauty?

Tell me, can you see beauty? Can you let it renew your commitment to life, every day? I don't want to wait for death to be near to receive the beauty in my life. I want to be awed every day by the truth--pretty or painful--and let it open me to the beauty that surrounds me and draws me deeper and deeper into my own life. (Oriah, from The Invitation )

Wordless Wednesday: Just Art

I have sat in traffic outside the Superior Court in Waterbury, Connecticut, and admired these gigantic metal sculptures for a long time. Instead of staring, I took a picture. Wordless Wednesday

Review: Portals

The mystery itself is the doorway to to all understanding (Tao, Verse 1) Portals are the means of entrance or exit. Usually, they are grand and imposing, like the gateway to an ancient city or kingdom. To pass through a portal is to be admitted into a new world. Once upon a time, portal was a word used for prayer book --a means for leaving behind one realm for another, of being transformed. Passage through either of these types of portal can be a right, a rite, or a random opportunity. New Fairfield, Connecticut, artists Mary Lou and Robert Alberetti have presented their interpretation of portals in their combined art exhibit called "Portals" at the Marie Louise Trichet Art Gallery at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield, Connecticut. The show will be on exhibit from now until April 19. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Portals are vehicles that bring us into new life. In the ancient world, portals invited citi

Weekend Snapshot: Manhattan and Jersey City

The top left and bottom right photos capture images of Jersey City, New Jersey. The top right and bottom left are views of Manhattan from New Jersey. Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Mom

I grew up believing that everyone had a roast with baked potatoes and a vegetable and rolls and coconut custard pie on Sunday. I couldn't imagine a world outside my own; I had no need or desire to. Such was my comfortable and sheltered childhood. After an hour of Sunday school in a drafty Methodist church, we were home on Sundays; dad read the paper until the various sections covered the entire floor. Wide World of Sports warmed the TV in the background. My sister was somewhere in the house. The dog was sprawled on the landing (God help you if you were in a hurry up to the bathroom; she wasn't moving for you.) And mom was doing her thing with the dinner. Because we were home, she had an early start on the stuff that took a while to cook. And she cooked it and did the crossword or crocheted or folded laundry or whatever she wanted. It was Sunday. As the years rolled by and the odd boy (they were definitely odd) would visit on a Sunday, mom led them in and led them out. If they c

Creating Fiction to Tell the Truth: A Sacred Act

Looking through some photo albums the other day, I recalled the words of my wedding photographer: "No matter what happens, when it's all over, you have the photo album." As a photojournalist, this guy was skilled at taking good, sharp documentary photos. What it was is what it was. He handed reality right back to us. Nowadays, though, I hear of people pasting people into photos, brushing them out, putting different heads on different shoulders, removing background details. They go to great lengths to create the perfect story, and they'll work hard at it and pay a lot of money for it because they want storybook perfection. Truth and reality are merely the raw material of story-making, it seems. This is not strictly a wedding-album phenomenon, though. By selecting specific photos the other day and cropping them whatever way I pleased, I was creating a fiction, too. I had been choosing pictures for an online album to suggest a set of relationships and a level of intimacy

Skywatch Friday: Delaware Memorial Bridge

The temporary suspension of disbelief Carries me across this water-- Styx, Jordan, or perhaps just a nameless gap Cutting through jagged earth-- On a journey south, Carries me to a greater fiction, A warm place Where lies tell the truth Without causing any pain Where love never ends or dies Only changes form In the sensible world Where everything is within reach And blue skies are a given. Skywatch Friday

Thursday Thirteen: Thoughts on Silence

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is the signature nonsense word of Mary Poppins , the Edwardian nanny who turns the Banks household upside down by infusing it with warmth, spirit, and imagination. Mary Poppins will have no truck with mean-spirited, bean-counting Mr. Banks and his misplaced priorities of punctuality and business over his young children. She sets the world right. When Mr. Banks finally sees the light shed by Mary Poppins, he uses this word to silence his banker bosses, who are cheap to the point of being cruel and foolish even in their treatment of Banks's little boy. It is a word that silences all foolishness and frees Mr. Banks to see with crystal clarity the sheer beauty of being alive. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious rids the mind of foolishness at the same time it silences the person to whom it is addressed. There's nothing left to say. Silence, Mary Poppins teaches us, is not only golden but also the gold standard of good living--that is, a life of k

Wordless Wedneday: Reflections of Hartford, Connecticut

Wordless Wednesday

"Michael, Row that Boat Ashore"

When my daughter tapped "Michael, Row Your Boat" on her clarinet a few weeks ago, I recognized the tune by the first "alleluia." This is a haunting spiritual about crossing the River Jordan--Biblespeak for entering the Promised Land, that place as free of suffering as it is radiant with the light of divine joy. On a literal level, this is actually a rowing song. In The Incompleat Folksinger , Pete Seeger mentions slaves who had been brought from Africa who spent their lives on small islands off the coast of Georgia and were out of touch with mainland life. "The only transportation was small boats and strong arms to row them," he writes. The boat crews from different plantations would have their own rowing songs. "Michael" is mentioned in the letters of some teachers who went to the islands in 1862-63. On a metaphorical level, Michael is the archangel Michael, whom the Bible tells us is responsible for rescuing the souls of the faithful from t

Weekend Snapshot: Hartford, Connecticut

My dad and I spent a few hours in Hartford, Connecticut, looking for graffiti for Strange Attractions . Hartford is a beautiful old city full of wonderful things. At one stop light, I couldn't help noticing this geometry lesson. Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Graffiti, Dad Style

I doubt when I was growing up that my parents could have foreseen the day my father would have dropped me off on the side of the road to step out over the highway on a catwalk to photograph graffiti on a railroad bridge. Or that on that jaunt I would find myself eye-to-eye with a train while I was taking photos on the inside of the bridge. Or that we would spend all of a clear-blue January weekday trying like two intrepid explorers (lunatics) to find a graffiti piece that is perfectly visible from the interstate but completely hidden from the city streets that surround it. I doubt they would have foreseen that Wednesday any more than I would have. We are law-abiding people who do our doodling on scrap paper when we're waiting for phone calls. Graffiti as an aesthetic and as a fascinating subculture didn't rate on my List of Favorite Things until I was on my way out of college. "Why can't you collect stamps?" dad joked as I jumped into his truck after the close e

Pot Boiler

There once was a toiler Who wrote a pot boiler Though 'twas literature she had in mind. Full of scandalous truth, the book was her ruth Though truth was far from unkind. The beasts and beauties, The blinging tooty-fruities-- All benefited from her lavish prose. But her readers cared not if they'd fare well or rot. What became of them nobody knows. So writer beware, If you'd live without care Stay away from books boiling over with truth. Lies make you money, not sweet scenes and honey About love for which you have no proof. Love good folk well, and love them long, But make them not part of your song. But give life to the perverse, demented and crazy, Those who hunger for things you won't name. The scandalous truth, it is your ruth: Far from the beautiful and true the world wants the ugly and lazy.

Happy Birthday to Pooh's Biographer

Yesterday was the birthday of Winnie-the-Pooh's biographer, A.A. Milne, who was born in London, England, in 1882. Milne got into college on a scholarship for mathematics, but once there he spent all his time writing funny poems and essays for campus publications. After graduation, he wrote for Punch magazine, where he became one of the leading humorists of his day. Though Milne wrote 30 plays and 60 books for adults, he is remembered for his handful of storybooks about Winnie-the-Pooh and the other stuffed animal friends of his son Christopher Robin. The young father became a children's writer when one of his friends who had just started a children's magazine asked him to contribute. Stuck in a holiday house in Wales one rainy vacation, Milne began writing. He later said, "So there I was with an exercise-book and a pencil, and a fixed determination not to leave the heavenly solitude of that summer-house until it stopped raining...and there on the other side of the la

Friday Skywatch: Who's Watching Us?

I've reacted to photos of clouds as if they were Rorschach ink blots for so long that I laughed out loud when my daughter showed me this picture of trees that she took for me from the car last week. Right away we saw a face in the middle of these trees. (His downcast eyes are looking toward the right.) Beyond them was a beautiful pink and orange winter sunset. "Numinosity" The world is all eyes Ears and nose and mouth And a hand that Taps you on the shoulder, Bids you look up Into the face of the trees This tree spirit is you totem Tonight it will guide you straight Out of the luminous world Into the numinous one Where you are all sense and being, Tree and light. Look up: That face you see is your own. You know it. Friday Skywatch

Thursday Thirteen No. 17: Ways to Say Good-Bye

The history of the English language tells us that word good is a descendant of the word God ,so it's not a leap to say God is at the heart of all things good. The speaks to the place through the ages of the Divine in our personal interactions because good is so much a part of every greeting, which are blessings. I have been thinking of good in the context of good-bye, and this thought sent me on a search for other words used at leave-taking. All are blessings: 1. Godspeed Middle English: May God prosper you. 2. Farewell Middle English: a wish of happiness at parting; a last look at something 3. auf Wiedersehen German, meaning "until I see you again" 4. Goodbye English: God be with you. 5. Adieu French: "I commend you to God." 6. Adios Spanish: "I commend you to God." 7. Slan abhaile Irish: "Safe homewards." 8. Vaya con dios Spanish: Go with God. 9. Shalom Hebrew: peace, hello, goodbye, and wellbeing. Shalom comes from the root verb Sha

Wordless Wednesday: Eyes that Dream

Click here for more about this sweet thing. Mom and I learned from doll expert Dee Domroe of the Doll Room in Bridgewater, Connecticut, that this doll is worth about $900. She is a Heubach cast from a Dolly Dimples mold, though she is not a Dolly Dimples doll per se. She was my grandmother's, and she has spent the past 11 years or so in a drawer with a bag over her beautiful head. I marvel that she has gone a century in a little girl's arms, in attics, and who knows where else yet survived. Wordless Wednesday

Cold Comfort

Cold comfort, this: Snow slides down to the berries, Slips like rain to earth's muddy core. Snow fall feeds earth the taste of spring Silently and secretly, each droplet Scented with the ripe fruit of summer, the Secret burn of autumn's cold fire--a Single drop, a cold comfort. Snow slides down to the berries.

The Runaway Head Game

I swear my daughter learns more about life on the playground than she does in the classroom. I learn what she learns when she takes the time to teach me--usually from the backseat of the car. She's my walking self-improvement CD. This week's lesson: how to handle friends who walk away for no reason at all. Adella has a friend who doesn't handle groups well. When there are three or four girls hanging together at recess, this friend will run off and pout. Adella has in the past followed behind to find out what the matter might be. For her trouble, she gets a long face and a shrug. Off goes the girl to some other outpost of the playground. This went on for a short while before my daughter realized that was the game: to see if she cared enough about this friend to leave the group and do exactly what she did. "Maybe she just needs that reassurance that you're her friend," I offered. "Well, I am her friend. And it hurts my feelings when she t

Weekend Snapshot: A Father's Spirit

We traveled to Rhode Island on Friday to visit my husband's father, who is dying. Along the way, we came across these images, which are part of a commissioned mural by the Peruvian artist ccopacatty at the Arnold Lumber Company in West Kingston. The mythic quality of these images captured my imagination. It seems to me they stand as metaphors for the epic potential of the human soul, particularly of fathers. I created this video to honor that spirit. Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Winter?

I love winter. Everything about it: the slow-to-go dark of the mornings, the biting cold, the ripping wind, the bright sunlight, the clear skies, the snow that insulates the world from every sound and wraps it in peace and stillness for a few months. The January thaw whipped all of that away this week, though. In fact, it got a little carried away with itself, reaching temperatures in the upper 50s and evaporating every last drop of snow and dissolving the ice on the nearby pond. By Wednesday, the only thing winter had left to call her own was the name January. The thaw startled me out of the peace and quiet of winter and reminded me that things change fast and change again. The same kids who were eager to skate and had tossed rocks onto the pond's ice cover a week ago will be out in their canoes before long. The fishermen who had passed their weekends sitting in huts in the middle of the pond will be leaning on the trees and fishing as lazily from the shore. The heron, the turtles

Customer Service and Good Friends: the New Owner's Manual

The other day I spent a few hours at my parents' home helping them resuscitate their computer, which told them to press "R" for repair but refused to do anything else. (Ever been there? The experience leaves you feeling like your hair is on fire.) Dad and I hunted around for some kind of instructions without any luck. Mom suggested in an over-the-shoulder-I'm-not-telling-you-what-to-do way that we should find the customer service number and see what happens. Mom is the great finder and fixer of things; we heeded the advice she didn't quite give us. After we found Dell's customer service toll free number buried way in there, I called the other side of the world; dug out arcane information such as the purchaser and delivery site of this computer that was a gift; read codes off labels pasted on various parts of the tower; spoke audibly, slowly, and distinctly for a few hours straight; and did exactly what I was told; and-- there was the computer back again. A

Skywatch Friday: Colors Bleed

Colors that bleed don't, actually, But might if they were living things. Rather, they go outside the lines On purpose or by accident Creating an effect you may not have hoped for When you placed them there Or when you showed up to watch: Sharp clarity, a gentle blurring, a mess? It is what it is. Colors bleed. Skywatch Friday

A Delightful Award: the Shameless Lion

Greg of Hasty Ruminations has awarded me the Shameless Lions Writer Circle Award . I'm delighted with this because Greg was one of the first persons to ever comment on Writing in Faith. I like his blog very much. He's a good guy with an intelligent sense of humor and a keen eye for world politics, and he finds the best videos on YouTube, so have a look. Here's how the award works: “Distribute this award to those people who have blogs we love and can’t live without, blogs where the writing is good and powerful. I thought interested members could kick things off by publishing the award on their own blog, naming five people they would like to give it to, and accompany the image with three things they believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful. The recipients then do the same, passing it on to five other people, and so on.” I include my blog roll to the left, "Beautiful and Beloved" along with the good folks of "Blog Your Blessings" in this m

Thursday Thirteen No. 16: Origami

For the past several years, I've been an occasional paper folder. I find transforming squares of paper into animals, flowers, insects, and people to be relaxing and satisfying. On Sunday, I led a very informal beginning origami workshop with some folks from town. One hour flowed into two though it felt like no time at all. Though paper folding can be a solitary activity, in groups it has the effect of relaxing people and bringing them the joy and satisfaction of creating something from nothing. Here are some thoughts on paper folding: 1. The Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock once said that "the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through." So it goes with paper folding. From a single square of paper emerges a universe : mountains and valleys are at once themselves and the essence of cranes, doves, sparrows, turtles, butterflies, trees, mountains, the rose. Nevertheless, these remarkable things remain sheets of paper. The crane is the dove i

Wordless Wednesday: Ice on Ice

The Shepaug River, Roxbury, Connecticut : Ice on ice in the bleak midwinter. Wordless Wednesday

Ice and Attitude, You and Me

Attitude can sometimes be everything, even to a glass of water. Japanese researcher Masaro Emoto discovered a few years ago that his attitude toward various samples of water affected the quality of the ice crystals formed by those samples. If he labeled a sample "Mother Teresa" or "beauty," the crystals the water formed were beautiful, complex, balanced. If he labeled a sample "Hitler" or "ugly," he got ugly, misshapen ice crystals. That means that water picks up on human vibrational energy--our presence--and responds much as it responds to other influences--sunshine, clean air, or pollution. What are the implications for each of us, who are made up of water? How do our attitudes and intentions affect the people around us? How much harm do we do if we bring bad feelings wherever we go or drop them like little bombs on voice mails or emails? Conversely, how much good can we do simply by being kind? With the intention of kindness guiding our ev

Weekend Snapshot: Clean the House and Discover Love, Good Fortune, and Strength

Cleaning the house the other day, I found myself admiring anew this old saucer from a box of my grandmother's treasures that long sat in my mother and father's garage loft. The three figures are surrounded by cherry and plumb blossoms along with the chrysanthemums to the left. These three flowers are symbols of Japan that represent love, good fortune, and strength, respectively. It seems ironic to me that the humble girl's face has worn away in the face of this royal beauty, whose face would sit squarely under a cup if only we had one. Above and beyond the three figures on the saucer is Mount Fuji. Weekend Snapshot

Weekend Snapshot: Tuatha de Danaan


Skywatch Friday: Mom and Dad's Flag

I've posted flag shots for Skywatch before. I don't mean to be a bore--it's just that the flag for me is different every time. This is a shot of my parents' flag outside their home. It's a new one, and it looked and sounded so beautiful to me on a quiet winter weekday afternoon when we were freed from our duties at school to honor Presidents Washington and Lincoln. One helped form and the other helped save our nation. They were brilliant, audacious men. It would be great to honor them by agreeing a sensible way to preserve the health and well-being of our nation. I live in hope. Skywatch Friday

Blog Your Blessings: the Magic of Markers

Among the Harry Potter - and Spiderwick -related treasures my daughter and nephews received for Christmas were Sharpie markers. One each of the beautiful fine felt-tip pens per kid and some lovely and smooth bristol board on which to try them out. A few days after the Big Day, I said the G word (graffiti) in front of my nephews, and we were off to the races. My younger nephew, a sharp-as-a-whip five-year-old, immediately crouched down and penned the block letters of his name. He grabbed a box of pastels and began coloring in the spaces with each color. He understands the graffiti aesthetic as we employ it is not about trashing walls but about experiencing total creative freedom. No aunt could be happier. My older nephew is a tad more conservative: "Aunt Sandy, graffiti's bad." Not to worry. We broke out the Pixar how-to-draw book and sketched out Woody, Buzz, Hamm, and something named Zurg from Toy Story and were just as happy. Of course, my mind traveled to the le

Borrowed: A Prayer to Live with Grace

May we discover through pain and torment the strength to live with grace and humor. May we discover through doubt and anguish the strength to live with dignity and holiness. May we discover through suffering and fear the strength to move toward healing. May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor. May Life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind. And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage moments of meaning, opportunities for love and the deep and gracious calm that comes when we allow ourselves to move on. (I found this prayer by Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro [Source:] on and thought it was well worth sharing.)

Skywatch Friday: Learning Colors with Time

Learn colors with time: Black dawn adds white Day becomes blue, Adds yellow Becomes the middle of everything and green, Eternally green, Dissolves into night: Purple, then Black again. Add white.... (I was out for a walk early on Monday morning. I started out in the dim light of a cloudy sky; within an hour the sky was heavenly blue and alive. It occurred to me that time and color unfold together.) Skywatch Friday

Thursday Thirteen No. 15: What Have the Faithful Done?

Church life has taught me much and taught me well over the past few years. It has taught me to live in hope, to believe in the very best in others, and more than anything, to trust in my natural-born skepticism. I was once the member of a church the pastor of which saw the end of his 40-year career when his former lover of seven years and another woman brought their relationships to light. It seemed to me at the time and now that this nightmare presented an opportunity. Though the pastor had done wrong, he had also done a lot of good over the years. This was the heart of the matter for me: he was no different from anyone else--imperfect yet capable of great things. The circumstances put each one of us in that church face-to-face with our own humanity. The point was not to find fault--an activity at which Christians are famously adept--but to find hope by searching our own flawed selves for that something better that could transform a crude and lewd nightmare into a transformative momen

Wordless Wednesday: Rainy Brooklyn Lights

Prodigal: A yellow-eyed monster Steps forward on the motorway And gives birth to a trumpeter In a red band uniform marching Gaily into the muted rain. For a moment I am blinded and deaf, But only for a moment as the light And the thundering voice of heaven Engulf me. For a moment I am afraid, But only for a moment; This is a dream.

Link Love 2008

Blogger friend Colin writes: I have met so many wonderful people in the 9 months that I have been blogging. My first blog was Free PC Security , and 3 months later this blog sprang into life and has been a greater success than I could ever have imagined. The blogosphere has expanded to include all countries and nationalities, where barriers and borders do not exist. We have all come together to create a truly universal family, which I am proud to be a part of. You all know who you are, and I thank you for making me feel so welcome. I wish each and every one a Very Happy New Year, and hope that you enjoy good health, peace and prosperity throughout 2008. You may copy this to ALL of your blogs and post it, and include any text you like. Left click and hold button down from ‘ Start copy’ , ensure that in scroll box you scroll to the very last number 303, then continue to ‘End copy’ , right click and select ‘Copy’ or Ctrl and C on keyboard, on your post page right click your mou