Tuesday, December 25
Monday, December 24
Friday, December 21
Wednesday, December 19
in the stubble
of autumn’s harvest.
The blank page
blows onto the river.
It too (the river that is)
is being pushed,
its only defense
to rise up with clenched fists
punching the black water.
stand still or outrun the wind.
Monday, December 17
Sunday, December 16
It began about 9 this morning and I am thoroughly delighted.
Wednesday, December 12
Uh-huh, she uttered dog-mockery behind my back, with the righteous indignation of a put-upon teenager. I actually turned around in disbelief with one raised eyebrow and asked, "What did you just say?" and I swear she rolled here eyes at me. All because I let out an "Awwwwwww," (admittedly dripping with estrogen) while looking at this picture.
I ask you gentle reader, whose heart could not be squeezed by the likes of a 5 week old coyote pup?
Tuesday, December 11
Monday, December 10
Driving, my mind wandered much the way the river road bends, slopes, climbs and dissects the thick tangle of woods between home and town. Tires cling to the gray slick ribbon of road, navigated more by memory than by sight. White-washed farm houses perched atop hills with their red-shuttered windows lean slightly forward as I pass, nudging my psyche into awareness that something is missing. I shake myself into the now, realizing the slow-footed river (usually to my right) has vanished under a shroud of fog. So deceivingly dense, it transformed the dark water into a white pristine beach.
Where had my mind wandered? Into the paradoxical thicket?
I cannot taste what I hunger for.
I can only smell what lives in my memory.
Sight is diminishing, yet I yearn to see more clearly.
A mirage on the contemplative landscape is seductive. The familiar crunch and groan of gravel under the weight of the car registers in my ears. I jerk the steering wheel to the left, inches from driving onto the fog bank and being swallowed by the slow-footed dark waters of the Cumberland.
Wednesday, December 5
After a great struggle between the sun, mounting storm clouds and a raw north wind, the promise of a bright day has diminished into a cold, damp and dark cave with little contrast between now-barren branches and the sky.
I'm hunkered down in my big comfy chair looking at the birds outside my window who are feeding feverishly on thistle seed. Because my living quarters are in the basement, the bottom of the window is nearly flush with the ground, which gives me a great vantage point from which to observe creation.
Although winter has not officially arrived, today feels like the familiar gray days of winters past. Since my psyche is susceptible to the lack of sunshine, I'll move upstairs and park myself in front of the fireplace, working, reading and writing in the warmest and most well lit room at the Retreat Center.
This time of year puts me in a reflective state of mind. I'm not sure what it will produce, but I feel something churning inside me that's part melancholy, part anticipation and part gratitude.
Monday, December 3
Sunday, December 2
My love affair with high heels started long before I actually slid my feet into a pair. As a young girl, I sat mesmerized watching my mom transform herself from a hard working mother of three into a goddess in long gowns, rhinestone jewelry, beaded bags and stiletto heels. I'm sure there's more than one black and white photo in the family album of me parading around in her heels with an ear-to-ear smile on my face. A rite of passage as a budding teenager was mom teaching me how to walk in heels. "Glide, glide, glide...walk from the hip, not from your knees," she coached. I was a quick and willing student.
Friday, November 30
Sunday, November 18
When I was once entrenched in the 9-5 corporate world, sloth day would go as follows:
1. call in "sick"
2. turn on the answering machine
3. pile on the sofa in my pjs with my favorite blanket and pillow
4. make sure the following was on the coffee table: a bowl of peanut m&ms, the remote control, something to read, a diet coke
5. resolve to leave the sofa only to go to the bathroom or the kitchen
6. I would then nap, eat, watch tv, read and repeat this cycle until my exhaustion was abated and/or I ran out of m&ms
The next day, I'd return to work refreshed and get back on the hamster wheel for another 6 months or so before the need for another sloth day would arise.
No longer am I entrenched in the 9-5 corporate world, or the 9 -9 non-profit world and no longer do I drive myself to the point of exhaustion...well, almost never! I'm not sure why I needed a sloth day today, but I certainly listened to my body, mind and spirit and let it rip!
Today, my sloth day played out like this:
1. Stayed in my pjs most of the day
2. ate comfort food that was warm and nutritious
3. finished two books I had started
4. listened to my favorite Sunday PBS shows, which I haven't heard since I don't know when ("Say What," "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," "The Splendid Table," and "A Prairie Home Companion")
5. began accumulating things to take on the Thanksgiving trip
6. went through boxes, cookbooks and more boxes to find all the recipes and baking pans I need to make my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner (carrot cake...for anyone who's curious!)
7. crawled into my warm, comfy bed and watched "Moonstruck," interspersed with napping
8. took a shower
9. put on real clothes and took the dog for a joy ride in the car
OK...so a review of today's list looks less like sloth and more like feasting on that which feeds not only my body, but my mind and spirit. If that's gluttony, then maybe I traded one deadly sin for another, but I most certainly feel more clear-headed and energized than I did 12 hours ago.
What do you do to recharge?
Friday, November 16
The paradox for all to enjoy is that in my formative years, dogs had their place...outside, on a chain unless the temperature dropped below freezing (rare in South Texas) and fed dry kibble. It's not that they were treated poorly, they just weren't equal to say, children, in the eyes of my parents.
Flash forward 30+ years. Mom's mellowed quite a bit where the furry ones are concerned. Once her nest became empty, guess who filled the void?!?
While my mom's been here, we've had breakfast in the Dayspring room almost every morning. It's warm, bright and has excellent views of the bird feeders and the rising sun. The first morning, I prepared biscuits, eggs, fruit, etc... I set a pretty table and mom and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. I noticed while eating, her pushing some scrambled eggs to the side of her plate. All the while, Mocha is laying very still under the breakfast table, pretending to watch the birds. In truth, she's waiting to see if the milk bone lady is going to come forth with a tasty morsel.
I feared the worse. Mom shot a sideways glance in my direction, picked up her fork and put 1/2 the scrambled eggs on it. In a sing-song voice, she called her grand dog over. "Sit Mocha," she said. Mocha obliged. Then she extended her arm, holding the fork full of eggs out with the instructions, "now take it pretty." Mocha gently slid the eggs off the end of the fork without scraping her teeth on the tines!
I tried not to giggle. That would only encourage my mother and well, what starts with scrambled eggs could end up as matching outfits. In my most stern voice I said, "Mom," to which she replied, "What?" It was the way she said "what" that completely disarmed me and I knew the battle was over before it had begun.
For the eight days my mom was here, Mocha got whatever Mocha wanted, including three dog treats at a time. Mom returned to Texas two days ago...Mocha is still moping.
Thursday, November 8
Fall is being selective about when and where it makes an appearance. The thermometer plunged this week and the trees have responded. Monochromatic brushstrokes of yellow and gold have yielded to reds and oranges. A single tree more closely resembles a patchwork quilt than a Rothko painting.
We shared our morning walk with my mom, who is visiting from Texas. My love of the natural world was inherited from my mother, who inherited it from hers. We are women whose hands are never too far from a plot of earth.
The sun is now setting and the woods will become dim in the twilight. Tonight we will sit in front of the fireplace and talk or we will be struck dumb by the beauty of the flames. Either way, we will be warmed inside and out.
Sunday, November 4
hands clasp, fingers lace
to steady the dizzy rush of love
the prayer inside me
each day born anew
two puzzle pieces
slide smoothly into place
aligned, there is no space
no trace of a seam
the rise and fall of breath
a fervent gaze
we break the fast
on warm, supple lips
gather vibrant colors
of a hungry kiss
in an arc overhead,
a filter for the sun’s rays
Saturday, November 3
Friday, November 2
A lone scrappy pine clings to the rock
We could hear the cries of peregrine falcons, who were nesting on this site.
She's an Irish Terrier who likes to:
chase the ball!
chase the ball!
chase the ball !
tug the rope!
tug the rope!
tug the rope!
bark at the chipmunk!
bark at the chipmunk!
bark at the chipmunk!
Miss Moonbeam is currently recovering from surgery to remove a cyst on her leg. In typical terrier fashion, she felt the stitches were completely unnecessary and systematically removed them, thus the Elizabethan cone she must wear until the incision heals.
Zoe, Linda and Kenzie (l) to (r)
Your adoring fans from the Valentine Dog Pack
Wednesday, October 24
Last week, a deer was found dead in our lake. According to those who've been stewards of this land for more than two decades, this is a first. As resident staff, one of my jobs is to fix things when they break and if I don't have the skills, call on someone who can. In this situation, there is no fixing to be done, there is only watching and waiting.
When my brain started processing the news of a dead deer in the lake, I thought of the deer first and what might have happened. Tennessee has a four month deer hunting season. We don't allow hunting on our land, but the Tennessee Wildlife Management, who are our neighbors to the southwest, do. I figured it might have been wounded on their land and made it as far as our lake before it died. Regardless of the catalyst, I had a situation to take care of and not the slightest idea what to do, so I called the experts.
This past week, I've learned a lot about the nature of deer. Did you know they naturally go to water to die? I also learned there is a disease spreading through the deer population in our area that is transmitted through the bite of a fly. When I talked to one of the wildlife agencies about our situation, she said, "You only have one deer?" I told her yes and she shared she'd just taken a call from a man who had twenty dead deer in his lake...20.
The recommendation by several knowledgeable people was to leave the deer where it was and let nature take its course. There is no danger of the disease spreading to humans or other wildlife and a decomposing deer will not contaminate the lake, in fact, our turtle population seems to be pretty happy about the new food source.
Have you stopped reading yet?
Communion with Creation is an important part of the retreat experience at Penuel Ridge. The lake is a favorite spot for visitors to decompress. It's a beautiful setting surrounded by forest. It is soothing, meditative. A floating deer carcass could cast a pall over an otherwise tranquil visit.
So, I've posted a tasteful sign that reads:
People read it, pause and either look at their shoes and thrust their hands in their pockets or head out the front door and down the lake trail. I myself, go every night at sunset and sit shiva. A few nights ago, after sitting by the lake for about 15 minutes, a great blue heron flew low over the lake and landed on the bank to my left. A barn owl started hoo-hoo-hooting high in the trees and slowly moved down one tree at a time until he too was near the bank of the lake. The three of us sat there until the dusk camouflaged us from each other. As darkness folded in around me, I walked back to the place where warm light spills from the windows onto a cool, green lawn.
Tuesday, October 16
I worked my way through a difficult administrative situation, but then the plumbing overflowed and a dead deer was found at the lake.
Seriously...these are not ingredients for a happy day.
Monday, October 15
Get up...you're feeling a little moist
Have a lovely breakfast...starting to glow now
Take a shower...toweling off, you begin to perspire and need to take another shower
Pick up a 16 foot moving truck...full on sweating is now taking place
Go to the storage unit, marvel at how much crap you were able to keep in a 5 x 15 air-conditioned box...your stuff is as fresh as a daisy but sweat is now streaming down your back, forming a puddle around your feet.
Spend copious amount of time strategizing how you're going to pack everything in the moving truck (read as: stand still and out of the glare of the sun as long as you can)
Stop to drink water, hoping you won't pass out from dehydration
Start moving stuff from point A to point B...rethink wisdom of doing it yourself vs. hiring a professional mover...did I mention sweat?
Begin to swoon from the heat and the stinging in your eyes...call in reinforcements
Stop to drink water and immediately sweat it out of your pores
Celebrate the arrival of reinforcements, showering them with sweaty hugs
Make the BIG PUSH with all the heavy stuff up the ramp and try not to run over any one's foot in the process
Finally finish 4 hours later...sit for a few minutes in the air-conditioned car...head is now beginning to pound
Drive to dear friends' house a.k.a. refuge from the heat...pry off clothing that is now stuck to your clammy, sweaty body...take a cold shower
You rally long enough to eat something...notice that the pounding in head has come back with a vengeance
Lie down, realizing you have full-on heat exhaustion
Wonderful, sweet, loving friends suggest you stay put and they'll make dinner at home instead of going out as planned...you raise your head from the pillow, smile meekly and nod a sincere thank you
Have lovely dinner....feeling a bit revived now...pounding in head has dissipated
Drive 16 foot moving truck to friends' house to pick up final piece of furniture...oops...we fall down, furniture goes tumbling on the driveway...many bumps and bruises will follow
Drive back to dear friends' house and pass out
This is the end of day 3
Sunday, October 14
Day 2 of our adventure in Houston began with a stroll through the rose garden at Herman Park. Not the best time of year for roses in Houston, however there certainly was some color and fragrance to enjoy.
Our next stop was the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There, we were greeted at the front door by a good friend and fabulous tour guide, Barbara Hawthorn. She was a gracious host, carving time out of her day to share the tenuous journey of Lucy, the 3.2 million year old fossil currently on exhibit. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the age of this fossil and how I am she and she are we and we are she and we are all together...if'n you know what I mean.
I would have loved to have taken a picture, but alas, the armed and alert HPD officer at Lucy's elbow was not to be challenged. Suffice it to say, if you are in Houston, don't miss this world premiere exhibit.
Next, we entered the Cockrell Butterly Center where heat, humidity, sunshine and butterflies were in abundance. Here are some photos...we spent much of the time in the following dialogue:
"Look!" "Look at that one!" "Oh, look over there!" "I've never seen that kind before!"
This would be one of the times when I am dumbstruck by the beauty of nature.
Covenant Church at 4949 Caroline (go ahead, say the address aloud with a Southern accent...it's like velvet) where we spent a few precious moments with Jeremy Rutledge, saw pictures of second son, Ian and beautiful mom, Sarah and sat in the sanctuary, soaking in the light, love and sacred presence that is so prevalent at Covenant.
No tour of "my" Houston would be complete without lunch at Hobbit Cafe and a stroll through Lucia's Garden. These are two of my favorite spots to dine and shop and they are on the same street! Added bonus was being joined by Holly...dear and wonderful friend and a member of my chosen family.
After lunch, we returned to the Museum and saw the Shang Hai Paleontology exhibits. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see everything, so will have to visit again the next time we are in Houston.
The evening was topped off splendidly with dinner at Little Pappasitos with Holly and Leanne and CAKE! Yes, Holly and I celebrated our birthdays with a mound of Mexican food and CAKE from the Acadian Bakers. We even convinced the waitress to have a piece, which did not take much effort on our part. The CAKE pretty much sold itself.
We returned to Larry and John's full, tired and quickly fell into dreams filled with dinosaurs and fossils.
Tuesday, October 9
*Yes, I grew up in the small farming community of Katy, but I was born in Downtown Houston, so I'm claiming it as my birthright!
Linda has never visited Houston and only grazed through Texas once on a roadtrip (not of her design) from Louisiana to Oklahoma. I wanted her to experience Texas as the glorious, expansive, vibrant state it is and maybe in the process soften her not-so-stellar memory. Speaking of glorious and expansive...big blue sky and clouds painted by high Gulf winds greeted us on day one of the tour. Look closely and you can see the moon setting in the background.
We visited skyscraper after skyscraper, many I had called "home" at some point in my career and altogether, a spectacular view from the balcony of my house in the 6th Ward.
Bank of America Center
(formerly RepublicBank Center)
This took us to Tuesday afternoon. Next was the tour of Omega House, Rothko Chapel, a stop in The Chocolate Bar for some Cape Cod Crunch Ice Cream and then happy hour at Mo Mong's for a reunion with great friends.
Mark & Reesa
Next Installment...Day 2 - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Sunday, September 23
Saturday, September 22
Sunday, September 16
After receiving 800 entries in 2006, we read 1,051 this year, totaling well over 4,000 poems...
I don't mean to be petty, but is it too much to ask for the math to add up? Yeah, it sucks for my poetry to have been rejected, but do you have to add insult to injury by throwing in a math word problem that I have no hope of solving?
Thursday, September 13
Tuesday, September 11
with an extended hand
throughout this season of dust
fingers deftly pour seed
suspend banquets in the air
beneath a black walnut tree,
bent and weeping for want of shade
a cushion of sunflower hulls
softens the fall of withered leaves,
mutes the groan of ground splitting apart
goldfinches appear suddenly
shattering this scene of decay
they arrange their saffron robes
tilt forward as if praying
gather thistle in their beaks,
black as their shining eyes
eyes that follow familiar movements
of the observer
who sits behind glass and thick masonry walls
where drought and hunger do not exist
as the sun dips low, they sing
of the memory of cool sanctuary
and they wait...
for balance to be struck
for the wheel of the season to turn
for Creation to restore itself
from this season of dust
Wednesday, September 5
Thursday, August 30
abandoned their cornfield
bade farewell to the evicted scarecrow
as he wobbles away on dusty stalks
they bully their way to the feeders,
these creatures who are shadow and noise
they have their own politics
the solitary red-winged blackbird holds back
dares not cross the invisible line
the ground boils with them
a seething cauldron of black oil
their iridescent heads dazzle
in the morning sun
a sudden shift in the wind,
a foreign sound and they rise in tandem
drawn swiftly upward
by the invisible hand of a puppeteer
all is quiet
the songbirds return
Sunday, August 26
fly through each other
on our morning walk
nudges them with her nose
the ones who have fallen from the sky,
who lie still with their breasts plucked out
I cannot accustom myself to these small deaths.
my cupped hands are filled with slightness
feathers who knew only flight
leave their host,
for one last ride on the wind
Saturday, August 18
sticky black mud
holds delicate hoof prints
of doe and fawn,
drawn to the water’s edge for a drink
Hours later, we pause at the same bank
to soak through our pores the thrumming
of cicada song, the sighing of a breeze
through tips of branches high above our heads
we go about this in our own way…
the little brown dog and me
I stand head cocked with my ear
tuned to the forest, eyes wide open,
rocking gently from side to side.
She gingerly walks the shoreline,
stopping to savor shoots of young, tender grasses,
follows the scent of loam and decaying leaves
to a deep, cool drink of water and hoof prints.
She buries her nose in the impression,
draws a deep breath and looks up, eyes shining
She bows down, rubbing her face
in the sticky black mud, along the line of
young, tender grasses fluttering in the breeze
like green eyelashes
Ecstatic, she runs to me
buries her wet, muddy muzzle between my breasts
and exhales into my heart
if only we, in our cinched and censured world
could surrender to the wildness that dwells within.
Saturday, August 11
Thursday, August 9
I was standing outside the chapel listening to the wind chimes when I heard the rapid fire beating of hummingbird wings coming from the right and it was getting louder! If you haven't heard it before, imagine the sound of a bumblebee on steroids. I froze. He hovered so close to my right ear, I could feel the breeze from beating wings on my cheek. Not happy with what he found, he threw it into reverse and tried a full frontal approach, making me go cross-eyed. Still dissatisfied, he darted to my left ear. I was braced for a little hummingbird tongue action, but instead he let out a few chirp-chirps and flew away.
Now I have an inkling of what it feels like to be a flower.
Photo Courtesy of: Colors of the Garden
Wednesday, August 8
I looked around the base of the mailbox, didn't see anything, expanded my scope, still didn't see anything, moved the tall grass with my foot and there it was, lying face down. As I reached down and picked it up my stomach lurched, sending a signal to my brain to recoil my hand.
Have you ever had one of those moments when your view of the world looks like the reflection in a mirror that has been broken into a thousand pieces, then glued back together by a 4 year old? This was one of those moments. Drawing the number closer, my eyes were finally able to focus on what I was truly seeing and a feeling somewhere between yuck and fear washed over me.
Have a look...here's the front of the number...notice the odd, curvy bulge on the right side:
Flip it over and what do we find?
Sunday, August 5
Saturday, August 4
August 1st is an anniversary of sorts for me. That's the day I became resident staff at Penuel Ridge Retreat Center and began my journey as a self-proclaimed writer. It's a natural time to pause, look back, recognize life lessons and become very clear about what I want to experience in this life.
This blog began as a way to take my friends and family along with me. I've enjoyed chronicalling my experiences in photographs and words, so it's a natural place for me to 'look back' and set my sights for the coming year.
Can you guess what I noticed, after reading nearly 400 entries?
You've been cheated.
I've only shown you the pretty things (except for the heartbreak of 2005). There are pictures of and stories about flowers and barns and countryside and local color and the wonder of creation.
I haven't shown you and written about drought, the sagging remains of once vibrant farms now used as junkyards for broken down equipment, cars and trash. You don't know about the systematic blowing up and scraping away of mountains to feed coal power plants that belch tons of carbon pollution into the air or that once rich delta farm land is being subdivided into luxury riverside homes or that the cycle of poverty is imprisoning the rural youth or that it's me that has to move fresh kill on the land.
I'm not saying all is lost or that I've sunk into the dark well of depression. What I am acknowledging is that I have cheated myself from seeing and experiencing all that is before me. So...get ready 'cause my eyes and heart are fully open. I believe this is what is referred to as "balance."
Summer of 2007.
What's beyond the reach of the water sprinkler's arc dies away.
Summer of 2007
Retreat House Lawn - Green
Tractor Shed - Brown
Wednesday, August 1
Monday, July 30
The first week I was here, I walked down to the road to find the mailbox on the ground. Since one of my roles at the Retreat Center is Ms. Fixit, I grabbed my toolbox and promptly reattached it. At least once a month, it's askew on its post after an encounter with one of the locals.
Today was a particular treat. I was having trouble focusing my eyes on the mailbox as I walked closer to the road. There's a good reason...it wasn't there, just a decapitated post. I let out a big sigh and kept walking, looked both ways and crossed the road. I found it lying on its side in the second row of the corn field. It must have taken a mighty blow to fling it that far.
I'm over it...tomorrow I go to Lowe's and purchase a mailbox that's vandal proof or at least more vandal proof than a standard metal mailbox on a wooden post.
Funny thing...when I retrieved it from the corn field, a letter I'd deposited that morning was still inside and the red flag was up. I think a white flag might be more appropriate.