Tuesday, March 3, 2015

the one guest

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth -
it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it's you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

-The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Ranier Maria Rilke

Thursday, January 22, 2015

stay in the light

I've been paying lots of attention to the light recently. During the day, I'm stuck in a my new office that doesn't really have windows, so all of the light we see is artificial. Then I walk to my car and see how the setting sun gives the sky its gold hues, reflects pinks of the clouds, and turns the mountains to purple and deep reds in the distance. The whole ride home the sky gives me a show.

Today, I was going to escape my cube and eat lunch outside, but the temperature wasn't reliable, and I'm already cold. So I found a new nook by the large windows in the lobby. The seat was warmed from the light. I ate salad and read some assigned stories for a class I'm taking - fiction and poetry, which is a relief after some of the technical science I read for work. It might have been the words, but I think it was also the light that helped me feel something different. I had some new ideas, whereas recently I've felt a bit stuck and uninspired creatively. Even these words now are coming slowly and a bit stilted. But today was a direction: stay in the light.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

waiting for seeds to be dropped

The year has started off a bit stark for me. I sat pen in hand, prayer on tongue, eyes on the sky, but not much came in the way of lists or brainstorms or hopes for the new year. So I'm taking a cue from the earth: just let it sit fallow for a while. I think I've written about that here before -- how in some parts of the country, the empty branches and snow-blanketed grass feel like perfect company for this time of year. Because somewhere under there, the ground is turning, preparing to nurture all those seeds to be dropped in the upcoming months.

2014 held some big (dare I say life-changing?) moments for me: attending a writer's conference, traveling to Kenya, finishing a marathon, and another big one I can't quite announce here yet. And there were also some important commitments that I made -- like writing every day in May, like running every day between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, like refusing to tiptoe away quietly from every scary conflict that arises in me or with friends. These were daily decisions to stay the course, decisions that are still driving me forward today. 2014 was a field full of harvest. So my instinct was to quickly plant 2015 with the same. And yet every single gift of 2014 grew and appeared in its time.

And so an empty field is before me, and soon I will turn it over and let the planting begin.

Monday, December 22, 2014

i have some reading to do

The other day Goodreads sent me my own personal 2014 review in books. Right there in the introduction was the number of books I've read all year: 13. Thirteen? That's just one a month, plus another. Wow. That means I marked only one book as read each month, and I'm sure I put a average of 3 or 4 on my "to read" list in the same time. In other words, I have some work to do.

Making me feel especially behind are all these best books of 2014 lists. And even though I feel overwhelmed when I read them, it's the good kind - the kind that makes you fill up that to-read list and hope that the new year will be full of Saturday afternoons in stretchy pants with a mug of something hot and a good book, half-read (that's the best place to be in a book) in hand.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Definitive Reading List of the 14 Best Books of 2014 on the Brain Pickings Blog

Writers share what they read this year on The Millions

NPR's Book Concierge (I could get lost...)

A round-up from Huffington Post

Happy reading!

PS If you have a list of your own, or find a favorite list, link in comments.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

before they move away

When you live in Southern California, you get accustomed to certain parts of life: June gloom, celebrity sightings, incredibly un-functional fashion. And people moving in, and then moving away.

Another of my good friends is moving, and the decision came quickly (though the option was simmering for longer than I knew). It's not just one friend who's moving, actually, but a family - a woman, her husband and their dear nearly-one-year old son. I've been rooting for them to stay, but even more I've been rooting for their joy and nurturing. For now, moving to a place with some better job options and more family is that.

So I'm doing what I've learned to do in my ten years of living in a transient city: helping them wrap up their time with us as best I can.

Last night, that meant watching their son as they packed. I was really looking forward to this because, have you ever been around a one-year-old? I mean, getting them to eat or take a nap can be tricky, but all I was tasked with was being with him so his parents could get some things done. I was told this might include some snuggles, and I knew there would be some giggles, so I was all in. After arriving and catching up with my friend, I was led to the little guy's bedroom where we'd hang out for an hour or two. And then my friend closed the door and I was like, what the heck am I doing?

I mean, we read two books, played with his basket of shoes, found a few blocks. I found some tickly spots on him. I tried to talk to him because I heard that's a good thing, and tried to help him clap. But for that first stretch of time I felt a little bored, and then felt bad for being bored when I was with this incredible little guy. The thing about a one-year-old is that most activities don't last too long, so I felt like I was constantly looking for something new to entertain him with. And then I was trying to entertain myself. I reached for my phone but remembered I'd left it in the other room (and was then grateful for that).

Eventually we settled in. We played alongside each other, and I tracked him as he crawled to see what it was that he saw, what he was crawling toward. He made a few grunts and I imitated. We danced around a little bit. I treasured the moments he wanted to touch my face or be held or laughed. Soon I was done trying to distract him and myself. I was close to just being with him.

And then his mom came in and like that it was time for bed. He and I, we gave each other a snuggle-hug and I said goodbye (though not for the final time, that's not until next week). The good thing about living here is definitely not the seeing people move away. But the gift of having them move in, even if it's not forever, is something that can last.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

that special kind of light

"... in your light we see light." - Psalm 36:9

So very grateful for many things, but especially the light -- the kind in which we see things as they really are. Happy thanksgiving, and may you enjoy light today, whereever you are.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

grown-up christmas list

No, that title isn't a riff off of the Christmas song that Amy Grant sings where she altruistically asks for gifts like world peace and food for the poor. This is a real, indulgent list of things that will make me wake up giddy like my 5-year-old self on Christmas morning when my parents rolled their eyes and told me to go back to sleep until the sun was up and they'd had their coffee. Family, I hope you're reading this.

Lots and lots of books. Yes, those words are all separate links to books I want. And yes, I need them.

The KeepCup. I have been driving to work with a regular mug half-filled with lukewarm coffee in one hand (on the speed-race-track that is the 110 freeway). I have also been buying a lot of coffee in paper coffee cups. This will help me kill two bad habits with one stone.

Madewell Zip Transport Tote. Two things that are ideal in a bag: big enough to hold my journal, my Bible and at least one book (oh, and sunglasses, my wallet and a water bottle). And a long strap to wear it messenger style. This has both, plus it's beautiful.

The Ostrich Pillow. This showed up in my facebook feed. I'm touched by how well facebook has gotten to know me over the years. I basically do this with a hooded sweatshirt and a blanket whenever I can, so having a pillow ready-made for this purpose would really help me out.