Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

A thousand years ago, when I was a very newly hatched fully growed woman in college, the end of every semester seemed to happen in a time-space continuum that flexed and bent and slowed more and more, when all I wanted it to do was move faster. And then, after the semester was over, and I was finally back on a plane headed for the cool, wet, lush, clean Pacific Northwest, the plane would fly into that weird space, and it would go slower and slower. Hurry hurry hurry. All I wanted was to be home. Please just take me home.

After I fell in love between my sophomore and junior years, it only got worse. Take me home. Take me home. Hurry up! My love is at home. My room and the air that is freshened when it rains - not thickened, like at school in Gulf. By the end of my senior year, something happened to the bendy, stretchy continuum. Perhaps I flew out the other side of it. Whatever it was, I came to a kind of serene contentment that nothing could disturb any more. Married soon. Soon. Soon. No longer hurry hurry, but soon soon.

Today there are only a matter of days - less than several weeks - it's soon soon. By the time I turn fifty at the beginning of July, one son will have graduated from college, my own university quarter will be over, and my soldier daughter will be home at last. Feet on American soil.

A couple of weeks ago, my love, her dad, as we were headed to bed one night, said (somewhat out of the blue), "I know we've been putting a brave face on all of this, but it will be good when it's over and she's not there anymore."

Yesterday, while I stayed home getting rid of the last of this phlegmtastic infection that flattened me last week and he went to church without me, Memorial Day was acknowledged by way of Hymn 513 - the alternative words to "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." In the alternative version, meant to encompass all the branches of the armed services, the words of the second verse are

O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain
O'er which our traffic runs amain
By mountain pass or valley low;
Wherever, Lord, thy brethren go,
Protect them by thy guarding hand
From every peril on the land.

He did not want to sing it. I suspect that he could not.

More than three years ago, we told our daughter that we were proud of her. We were. We are. We did not tell her about the many nights when we went to bed and cried at night. "Our daughter is in the army," I said. "I know," he said. And we cried. Our girl. Our tall, thin, solid, fair-skinned, funny, exasperating, lovely girl. She was carrying a gun and wearing a uniform. And we were proud of her. We are proud of her. And we cried.

We are crying again. The former and latter rains - the tears that water our ground fore and aft. Thank God for rain. We would burst open if we could not release this.

Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.



This from Genius Town, via Utne Reader.

See this guy choosing a book? In a phone box? Yes, that's right. It's ..

The old fashioned phone booth that was converted into the world’s smallest library

I've been really sick this week, but the laughing I'm doing about this stroke of pure genius just might cure me!



Is this not the coolest poster ever?
Facebook ad says:

A fascinating showcase of student art, film, and music bearing upon a year of program studies in consciousness, dreams, modern physics, and much more. Come and enjoy some truly wonderful work!

Free admission and refreshments!


Bitter vs. Open

I've got a spoof on "You Might Be a Redneck" percolating away in the back of my mind. If I ever do it, my "You Might Be a Fundamentalist" will include THIS BRILLIANTLY DONE concept. From Indexed via Prattlenog (again) ...

and subtitled by me ...

(If you're bitter, you might be a fundamentalist.)

Not all fundamentalists are bitter (but there are very few of those), and not all bitter people are fundamentalists (at least, they're not religious fundamentalists ... but I bet a conversation would show what they're fundamentalist about). But this is a tell. For sure and certain, just like a stutter or a twitch or a gesture is a tell for some people's anxiety or lies or insecurity or glee, this is a tell. If you're bitter, you might be a fundamentalist.


When a living language spawns

I have just sent an "instant message" to my husband, asking the following question:

"Why won't my USB hub let go of my thumb drive?"

So ... am I the only one whose eyes cross every once in awhile at the words and phrases that have meaning these days?

And here's another question. It's been awhile, I think, but I do still hear, "Don't touch that dial!" from the television. Who has a "dial" any more? I don't think my kids would even recognize a dial. And we can't call the remote (which is a remote control device) the "clicker." Seriously. That's too stupid.

And what are we going to call it when we back up in a movie? It's not "rewind" anymore because there's nothing winding in the first place. "Fast forward" still makes sense, but what is the backward direction supposed to be called? Back it up? Go back? Reverse?

And the weirdest of spawns - spores - language oddities - whatever this is: The other day I asked my sons to "friend me." Okay, so I made a joke of it because both they and I know better than to use the word friend as a verb. It's worse than "party" - as in, "let's party." But still. I've been friended by my sons.

Anyone have a time machine? I need a vacation.


Yay, Hazel!

Hazel Soares, 94, center, gets her picture taken with some of her classmates before the start of commencement exercises at Mills College, in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, May 15, 2010. Hazel received a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Soares is believed to be the world's second oldest person to graduate from college. ( AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(Of course, she's not going to have to find a job in her major ...)

Yay, me!

I've just finished my 5-6 page paper for the Interpersonal Neurobiology of Depression course, and it's only 7 pages long! "I would have written a shorter 'letter' but I did not have the time" - which quotation, apparently, does NOT belong to Mark Twain, NOR to T. S. Eliot, but to Pascal of all people! Who knew?

Works cited:
Beck, M. N. (2002). Finding your own North Star: Claiming the life you were meant to live. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Gordon, J. S. (2008). Unstuck: Your guide to the seven-stage journey out of depression. New York: Penguin Press.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.

Rubin, G. C. (2009). The happiness project: Or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun. New York, NY: Harper.

Shay, J. (2002). Odysseus in America: Combat trauma and the trials of homecoming. New York: Scribner.

Isa does good work

Isn't this gorgeous? Click on it! Her blog makes me feel as if I'd just gone into a wondrous textile store, or a really amazing gallery, or a florist's shop, or a tiny little hidden antique store that's not a junk shop. I found her when I was looking for pictures of people dancing under the stars. In Texas. I've got a brand new daydream floating in my head - I was looking for pictures. And I found Isa.


Hey Andy! Ever hear the one about the Jackalope?

This one's for you. Hope you see it here. Leave me a note in the comments section if you do. All is well, and all is well, and all manner of things shall be well (to borrow from Julian of Norwich).

And for some other people: I talked to our soldier today, and she is well too. Fierce. Solid. Calm. Well. She will be home soon.

And Jim? Do you read my blog? Remember this?

He was eleven, going on twelve, old enough to know that our mother enjoyed stringing us along just for the fun of it. She had, after all, convinced him once, and kept him convinced for a very long time, that dill pickles could open the bathroom door. Not directly, you understand. The pickle was not a substitute for the nail we otherwise used to pick the lock when people had accidentally locked the door behind themselves on their way out. But my mother had been eating a pickle, and my brother had seen the pickle and not the nail, and by the time she told him the truth, he'd eaten a lot of pickles. It's a wonder he ever trusted her for any further information. Even when he was four or five, he was all about the information.

Our youngest brother was only nine, and we never relied on him for the facts in any case. He was for playing our own tricks on. This is how he had a childhood that included the eating of bath soap and dog biscuits, and several rapid and rather brutal falls from trees. He neither gave nor accepted information about things like danger, but generally believed that everything would turn out fine. He believed us. Obviously, he couldn't be relied upon for his judgment.

They could both believe me. I was the oldest of us three little kids, and I always looked out for the two of them, and I always told them the truth. I volunteered the truth. I wielded the truth like a kind of flaming sword or witch's wand, and I was always right, and I could prove it and argue it and defend it and it mattered to me. So, seriously. My little brother could have believed me.

I was nearly fifteen years old and I had long since outgrown baby games like telling stupid stories about jackalopes. I wouldn't have lowered myself to such dumb dork conversation.

Jacakalopes! Doesn't the name explain it? All the way from Portland, Oregon, through Boise and across the corner of Idaho, and into Green River, Wyoming, during the summer of 1975, we got things settled for the long drive to Iowa. Three lanky kids, kids who generally worked things out, worked out the issues of personal territory inside the station wagon, and whether or not and how far to roll down the windows to get some air. We ignored the map reading and parental conversation in the front seat. We read our books and made up games of our own and generally got along just as well as ever. Until we got into Green River, Wyoming. Thirty-five years after the fact, all of us still grimace at the name. The mosquitoes there were like a plague from Little House on the Prairie or the story of Moses or something.
Green River, Wyoming, was also where we saw the first jackalope postcard in some greasy spoon restaurant. There it was, in full color. A photograph. A picture. Not a cartoon, but a real picture. The jackalope was in a field or something, surrounded by wild flowers and alert for predators. Predators! The stupid looking oversized jackrabbit had antelope horns large enough to fend off a herd of stampeding bucks in rutting season, and my brother believed it was real!

There are nine hundred, thirty-four miles between Green River, Wyoming, and Ames, Iowa. There must have been about six or eight restaurants and probably one or two motels, all of which had spinner racks with postcards in them, and several of the postcards bore the image that was evidence of the amazing jackalope. They leaped in the air, they browsed in the hills, and they posed for the cameras, and my brother was just starting to believe me and my knowledge of genetic codes and DNA and inter-species reproduction, right before every stop when the whole discussion would start up again. All the way to Iowa, he resented my arguments, appealed to our amused dad, and got nothing but, “I don't know, Jimmy,” from our exasperating mother.

Nearly a month later, on the way home by the northern route, after I had turned fifteen in Iowa, and my brother and I had resumed our comfortable partnership as the older two of our three, he began to concede the point. Okay. Pictures could be faked. True enough. So maybe those postcards were a joke. Maybe, just maybe, someone was even a sick enough liar to put the printed paragraph on the back, with fake information about the jackalopes. Sick. But possible.

Until the diner in South Dakota. That was where we saw the jackalope preserved by taxonomists, on display behind the counter, for all the world to see. Stupid South Dakota.



People are made in the image of God. And what is the first thing people learn about God? The very first verse of the first chapter of the holy book? "In the beginning, God created." That's what God did.

That's what we do. Apparently, we create as surely as we blink or breathe. Apparently, we create even if we are disallowed any other sense of normality.

Can you imagine any feeling more helpless than being interred by your adopted country during a war? A war that pits your family against your country? I can barely stand to think about it. Domestic camps of people, herded, guarded as if dangerous, inspiring such literature as Snow Falling on Cedars. The stories make a weight of guilt and a memory not my own - a memory of panic - of being trapped - settle into the sternum. We read these things and wonder at the inhumanity of man to man.

And yet ...

These are "bird and animal pins made of scrap wood, paint and metal, by Himeko Fukuhara and Kazuko Matsumoto, interned at Camp Amache, Colo., and Gila River, Ariz."

There is a lot more currently on exhibit at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery. The story (with some more breathtaking pictures) is here, at NPR's Morning Edition. The exhibit and programs are the Smithsonian is here, at their site. In the beginning, God created. In the internment camps, the Japanese families did.


Books I've been thinking about lately

My soldier will be home soon.

The other night, my husband said, "We've been putting a brave face on all of this - but I am going to be relieved when it's over."

Me too.

And she's seen and been near and heard about and dealt with the fallout from so much hideousness that I wonder ... I wonder what part of our country's burden she will deal with. What part of the warrior's sacrifice we will deal with.

See, that's the deal. Soldiers don't just walk off the stage and repair their costumes and then come back into view. While they're gone and we can't see them, they absorb into their bodies and minds a permanent burden of pain. And, as William Blake said, "It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend." That's the other part about being a soldier that the people at home cannot know. The narrative includes the doubting Thomas and the thrice-denying Peter. Closest friends who don't get it. Betrayal. Abandonment.

In this Eastertide, as we approach Ascension Day on Thursday, I think about the fact that Jesus used his scars as proof. Remember that? Jesus, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, came to earth, and was a helpless baby, and now he bears the scars of our pain. That's the Christian story. He who knew no sin became sin for us.

He showed Thomas the scars. See? he said. It's really me. I am not a ghost. I'm the risen Christ - look where the nails and the spear went in. He could eat with them - feast with them - talk with them - rejoice with them ... but he still held the scars in his body.

Soldiers do that. Even if they come home "without a scratch," they hold in their bodies and minds the pain - the anguish of the world. They bear it for the rest of their lives.

Lots of research has been done lately about post-traumatic growth and health. There is such a thing. I'll be looking into it. I need to know how to process this kind of pain. The story of the restoration of Peter - when Jesus asked him three times, "Peter, do you love me?" - that story is important to me today. Peter was restored. Peter turned from the sword and learned to feed sheep.

Odysseus. And Achilles. Our Lord, too. Permanently changed because of sacrifice and battle. Victory doesn't come cheap. And now I want verbiage. The book covers are linked to sites - just click.


Sign of the Season

This is how I know the weather has warmed up.

It's Saturday. We ate our bacon and eggs (and the backs of my hands smell like applewood smoke) with our Trader Joe's croissants (which are perfect every time). We talked about stuff. There are three of us today - no one under the age of thirty. The two not-young giants are thumping about, making working noises in my house and around it. But mostly below it, to be precise. The doors are open to the outside. I descend to their level (ha!) and wonder what's going on. For some reason I am compelled to ask.

Me: What are you guys doing?

Him: Cleaning out the basement so you can use it more.

Me (due to that non-answer): What are you doing?

Him: We're cleaning out the basement. We're going to bring your washer and dryer down here.

Me (even less impressed than before - the basement is all dirt - my washer and dryer are no more going down there than I am): What are you doing?

Him: We're pulling water heaters out of here.

Me: Water heaters? Did you say heaters? Plural?

Him: Yes.

Me: Oh, I don't even want to know about this.

Him: That's why we don't tell you.


Wash it away

She was right!! My doctor told me once that if I wanted to separate myself from one experience and enter another, I should wash my hands. That it would help me make a separation. That's what this guy says too.


Life Is What You Make It

Don't believe me?

Think it's a platitude?

Listen to the son of Warren Buffet talk about NOT getting financial help from his insanely wealthy dad.

Make that, listen to musician Peter Buffet talk about how hard it can be, and how great it is, and what it really means when parents refuse to "help" --- the interview from Morning Edition will make you smile all day long.

Feeling better? (that might not be good news)

A course I took last month explained a few things to me. One of those things I now see a bit more clearly is the neuro-biological component of a habit.

See ... this woman

has written this book

together with this man

because they found out something verrrrry interesting about the chemical reactions in the brain. Here's the deal.

When you "believe something," and then you are shown obvious evidence that contradicts what you "know," your brain secretes the hormones of stress and panic. Your body has perceived a threat. Your anxiety is not a sign that you are picking up on a lie. Your self-protective instinct is actually a signal that something you assume about the world might not be true. (And we wonder why kids get upset sometimes!)

Now, if you are presented with material that contradicts your known facts and paradigms, and you accept the job of dispassionately considering this knowledge, you can eventually figure out how to incorporate, contextualize, or otherwise make sense of the new data. Living through the anxiety doesn't mean you're a gullible idiot - it means you're considering things.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. ~Aristotle
And what happens if you reject this new knowledge? You get new data - it contradicts old data - and you say, "No, I know for sure that this contradictory information is not true" because you "know for sure" that the science proves that humans are making the climates heat up, or you "know for sure" that the people who want to reform health care in this country are actually socialists ... or that you "know for sure" that this is God's will for your life, or that all Christians are hypocrites. What happens if you reject the new data?

Your brain releases calming chemicals.

You feel better if you reject the new, threatening information. You feel safer.

In fact, you feel quite strong and virtuous and more sure of yourself.

That's right. Rejecting information that might make you change your mind about something makes you feel quite good about yourself. This is the physical response of religious and nonreligious, scientific and nonscientific, right wing and left wing (which is not the same thing as either of those other two couplets) ... your body senses a threat when it finds new information.

And then you decide what to do with that threat.

Interesting, eh?


Worth listening to (and try not to panic or react before doing the listening part)

Hm. Let's see if this loads. If you can't hear it from here at my blog, click on it to go to Chicago Public Radio and listen to it there. Frank Schaeffer's interview with WBEZ is a really good one.

Worldview - Atheism and Christian Fundamentalism Miss the Mark on Faith

(Nope. Doesn't load here. If you click on the link, you'll go to WBEZ's "Worldview" - the interview is from back in December)


Where I go to school

This is the second time I have ended up soaking myself as an adult in a nurturing environment originally formed for the care of children. The first time, it was All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Maryland. When I was at the one silent retreat I ever attended, I found out that the retreat house had housed children - primarily girls - and primarily those who suffered from rheumatic fever. I once had rheumatic fever - the connection for me inside that building was almost a sensory one. I could feel it. I feel the same connection at Marylhurst. This is where I go to school. "We believe that liberating action aimed at the full development of the human person is at the heart of our mission of education."

From the Forest of Giants

This is an experiment. I am uploading this ... um ... music? Sound poem? Composition? Honestly, I do not know what to call it, but it's pretty cool. Someone has recently called my little family a "forest of giants," which cracks me up, and when I heard this composition recently ... uh ... recently composed (sheesh!) by one of the trees in the forest, well, I had to put it up. In our forest the jazz/blues tree is doing all kinds of interesting things lately - but this is from the tree with the ear for the surreal.

Got a spare 7 or 8 minutes? Close your eyes for it. It's better that way.

Torch and Stone by Congregant


If I had a lot of money ...

Robert Emms plays Albert, a naive country boy who follows his beloved horse, Joey,
to the battlefields of World War I. Based on a children's book
by Michael Morpurgo, the play chronicles the horrors of war
as seen through a horse's eyes.

I'd buy tickets, and I'd go to London, and I'd see this show. I'd take friends. It's supposed to come to New York next summer, and that's a lot closer ...

"Eight million horses died during the first World War," says puppeteer Matthew Burgess. "And that shouldn't be forgotten."

If War Horse has anything to do with it, London audiences — and starting next March, their counterparts in New York — will remember it for a long time to come.