I took the train across the country once, alone, before I had children. I sat in the lounge car for hours, staring out the window, and discovered I had a choice about what to look at. I could either look through the glass at the scene unfolding in front of me, or I could look into the glass and find my reflection. A barely-perceptible flicker in my eyes was the difference between seeing the country or seeing myself...
I love poems for their smallness, their substance, their portability. I love that they pack so much meaning into such a tiny shape. I love how the words are surrounded by white space. When so much in life feels crowded and rushed, looking at a poem is like taking a slow, deep breath. Even if I don’t always understand what a poem is about (which is much of the time, it seems), I’m soothed by the artful gathering of images, and by language that is beautiful to read, speak, and hear.
In case you’re wondering about the beautiful pictures on my website, I have to tell you about two of my very talented and generous friends . . .
Sarah Morgan designed the site and took all the photos for the site itself, and Nathan Towry took the pictures that accompany these journal entries. :)
I woke myself up last night, talking in my sleep, telling the bible story about Mary and Martha that I’d heard so many times as a girl. But in the dark, in the unguarded place of sleep and dreams, I told the story in a new way.
The New Testament text seems straightforward: Jesus and his disciples visit two sisters named Mary and Martha, and while Martha is busy “making preparations” for the guests, Mary sits by Jesus’ feet and listens to his teaching. Martha gets irritated, understandably—she’s probably fixing a meal and cleaning. Who knows how many people dropped by to hear the traveling rabbi? Suddenly the house is full, her table doesn’t have enough chairs, she has to feed hungry men who’ve been walking for miles, and her sister has abandoned the kitchen and sneaked into the room where the men are.
For many years I fell asleep at night thinking about how many things I'd done wrong that day. I planned how I'd do better tomorrow. I liked the feeling of a new morning . . . fresh, with no mistakes in it, as Anne of Green Gables used to say. :)
But in that lovely scene where Anne romanticizes the perfection of an unsoiled day, her teacher, Miss Stacey, responds from a place of wisdom and maturity. "With no mistakes in it yet," she says.
About twenty years ago I heard David James Duncan speak at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. During the audience Q & A someone asked about the different representations of Christianity in his novel The Brothers K. He said something about how some readers assumed that the novel was throwing out Christianity because some of the characters’ expressions of “faith” were destructive and self-serving. Then he said that the novel didn’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, and if readers looked closely they would see there’s definitely still some “baby”.
I used to associate the word “practice” with a a skill—like dribbling, passing, or running lines when I played soccer. Constant repetition was part of becoming a better athlete.
Last week in a yoga class the teacher said to “find the place between ease and effort” while moving through the poses. I laughed. Does that elusive place even exist? A sweet spot where I’m trying, but not too hard? Where I’m resting, but not too much?
Every day is full of thresholds—from being asleep to being awake, from being at home to being in the car, from being in the car to being in the classroom. “Being” is an instructive word here, since my sense of being is affected (in subtle and not-so-subtle ways) by this constant crossing of thresholds.
I’m deep in the weeds with Midterm papers. More show up every day. No matter how many I grade, the stack keeps growing. I’ve been up past midnight all week, trying to catch up, telling myself that it’s totally possible to be a teacher and also have a life, but I swear the evidence isn’t good.
Last year I had six Hawaiian wrestlers in an 8:30am writing class. This year I have six basketball players, four wrestlers, and two track stars. EN 101 and 200 are required, which means a) the students have to be there, and b) they’d almost always rather be sleeping or watching Netflix.