December 31, 2012

Toward The Light

Today is just another day, and yet it is the ending of one year, full of the last brief hours before another one arrives, and with it, so much mystery. I've always liked days like this. The inherent reflection and looking forward, the purpose in the pauses. This year, though, I feel more desire to be than scan, to see how fully I can embody this moment, and then the next, and then the next. To be quiet and still. To feel my heart beating, the liquid in my veins, the breath flooding into the tips of my fingers. To live, simply.

We have a thin covering of snow on the ground this morning--pockets of brown earth poking through--and the sky is brilliantly blue. The air is crisp and icy. Branches hang bare. Deer tracks reveal night visitors. A train moves in the distance. In the distance, friends move into new jobs and new relationships and old patterns and ripe laughter. In the kitchen, my husband brews coffee. In the next bedroom, my nephew stirs. Inside my body, among my muscles and organs and breath, an unborn child pushes up against my hand, whispers for the thousandth time a soundless hello. I whisper back. I whisper back with the sounds of my heart. Even in these deep winter days edged so closely in darkness I am light shooting up and shooting down and full of light full of lightness full.

What lies ahead? Dear God. So much that quivers in eagerness. But may I stay in this moment, and then the next, and then the next, so that when the day comes that is the day that is the light that is the now, I am ready, I am beating, never before will I have been more me.

May your new year be full of brightness, friends. Welcome 2013!

December 16, 2012

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don't say
it's easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

-- by Mary Oliver

December 3, 2012

Waning Days

Research papers in and graded, To Kill a Mockingbird spins on, bran muffins fresh from the oven, one more walk. Good days, brown and scented with the end of fall. The snow is coming, friends. Cocoa, a blanket on my belly, deep dark, and settling in:  ahead ahead ahead ahead ahead ahead ahead. Time for music.

November 4, 2012

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

We went out west to southern Washington and northwestern Oregon recently to visit the first child that has made us Aunt and Uncle. A lovely trip. Inspired lots of writing that I can't quite find the time (or energy) to finish. But these. Thank God for photographs that don't require words. Except I can't quite keep quiet about the fact that, yes, this pregnant lady hiked through the drip, stepped back and forth over switch backs, and stopped (repeatedly) to suck down great gulps of delicious mossy thick green-coated air until I reached the top of Multnomah Falls, sweating, heart pounding, baby dancing inside of me, thankful once again for high places and tall trees and rushing water and the flat-out wonder I feel when I walk upon the world. 

October 27, 2012


Little child, this morning you woke me when the sky was still black, milky with low clouds and fog, and in the darkness I laid my hands over the places where you like to move. 

I thought: soon, the sun. I thought: a new day. I thought: you are already so alive that it frightens and thrills me, you who I know but do not know, you who I feel but cannot see. 

I have watched the seasons change all my life. I have anticipated the tightening, the clean coat of snow, the turning over. I have waited for signs, and they have come, every time, in the form of something I have words for. 

But you, child, are hidden: I close my eyes and sense you behind a tree trunk, between a row of pumpkins, below the surface of a summer lake. 

Your face is the peaks and valleys and plains of the earth, given new sounds, new names, that I've not yet learned how to say.

October 17, 2012


Listen: after a long day's work
the land is stretching its body
exhaling toward sleep and white dreams

October 11, 2012

Nature and Environmental Writing Conference

I said I'd fill you in on how my presentation at The Loft's Nature and Environmental Writing Conference went. What I meant was: I'll tell you everything! I'll make you feel as if you we're there! Because it was wonderful and inspiring and refreshing, and who doesn't need a little bit of all that?

What I can offer, though, is a much more truncated version of the story I intended to share. It is mid-October, people. Is any one else amazed by that? And October means midterm grading and stacks of student essays and the arrival of the German exchange students (and Carolin and Annette) and a trip west to Washington to visit the first child who has made me an aunt. There have also been road trips and late afternoon walks and squash soup. But those details will come later. Maybe. Let it be enough, friends, to say that these two years of blogging have led to opportunities and people that I never would have had and never would have met had it not been for this space.

This is what I talked about with my fellow writers: how blogging--this often self-focused thing that people do indoors--can lead to greater inspiration and connection with yourself, others, and the world. Below is a link to the Prezi I used to help convey my thoughts. There is no narration, alas, but if you're interested, I hope you're able to gather all the main points by clicking through and guess at the bad jokes I made along the way. And if not, I'd be happy to attend another writing conference near you and present all over again. :)

Happy (almost) weekend! What does October hold in store for you?

September 24, 2012

On Bravery: Scott Russell Sanders

There is a man I met through his words three years ago, and ever since, I have wanted him to be a close uncle, a pull-that-chair-up-to-the-fire kind of friend. He has written twenty books, taught thousand of students, won dozens of awards, and met with important people about important things, so I know it's not only me that has felt this way. Still: I thought if I could just meet him, if I could just shake his hand, perhaps my appreciation would ring clear to him even in the wake of so much praise.

This last weekend, I spent the early minutes of an 8:00 Saturday morning hiking through the north woods at the Audubon Center. I had on a too-thin coat, no gloves, and my camera slung around my neck. The air was tight with a chill I hadn't felt for half a year, and the light was brilliant with it. It streaked through the pines, caught on the maple leaves already a vibrant red. I paused and looked, kneeled, scrambled up on rocks, tilted my ears toward the sound of birds. Took deep breaths. It is good--deep down bone good--to wake up like that.

I remembered this man, my hoped-for friend, once saying something similar in a book.

I was thinking of that book, the light, of gratitude, and of the paper and pen in my pack--how there is so much I want to do, but time, time, time, the turning of the world, its bigness, my smallness, its troubles, its beauty, and my inability to say sometimes what it is that I actually accurately feel, and how some people can, and how I have so much to learn, and want to, SO MUCH do I want to, because what is life if it's not learning and growing, and changing, even when that's scary, even when I doubt if I'm brave enough to reach in and find the truth and offer it up--its as I was thinking these things that I turned back down the winding, leaf-strewn trail, and found myself one minute later walking step for step with warm-faced, kind-eyed Scott Russell Sanders.

"Beautiful morning for a walk," he said. "A good way to greet the day."

And I said yes, I said beautiful, and then I shook his hand.

In thirty minutes, he would give his keynote address at the conference we were both there for. In two hours, after his talk, the rest of the conference-attendees and myself would rise to our feet in a standing ovation. It is not everyday you hear someone speak about the power of the imagination. It is not every morning that you feel you're in the presence of a true, gentle champion of--in my inability to put it any other way--the things that are right. "We can be hopeful," he said, "because the imagination exists, and with it, the power to vision ourselves out of the situations that otherwise make us slaves to money, to prestige, and the voices that arise from outside our true selves."

Later still, I would reach for the book I had brought for him to sign--the one I read first, three years ago, that set me thinking about place and about home and our responsibility to the spaces that sustain us--and I would realize that in my rush I had grabbed the wrong one. I would feel sheepish, a little angry at myself, and wouldn't quite find the gusto to walk up to him again and have him sign the inside of this other book anyway.

But before that, before he gave his words to the lot of us, he took a walk with me. Yellow leaves slipped down around us in the wind. I said thank you. He asked my name. We talked about teaching. About place. About his granddaughters. My baby. We stood outside of the conference room for some time, talking over a good several things. I know it's unhelpful to hold people on pedestals. He is just a man, this Sanders, a man who has lived almost forty more years than I have. And if it hadn't been his book, perhaps it would have been someone else's. But it was his. And I am writing these words, sharing this experience with all of you, thanking God that I live in a time and in a place where experiences like this--the walking and the writing and the thinking--are possible. And it makes me want to be more brave.

September 11, 2012

Run: Morning

What do you think: Would Henry have said the same thing about running (or biking)? That an early morning run was a blessing over the whole day, too? For some reason, I have a hard time picturing HDT up-and-downing and huffing-and-puffing next to Walden Pond, a fine sheen coating his brow and collecting on that fine, fine beard. Still, I imagine were he with us this morning, taking in a September dawn such as this, he would have laced up his worn-in boots and greeted the day, heart pounding.