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...
Someone has eaten all the M&Ms out of the Costco bag of trail mix.
Swimsuits are drying on the deck railing.
Every decision—bike ride? swimming? trip to village for smoothies?—is a negotiation between fourteen stakeholders between the ages of 3 and 65.
Mom learns something on a news website and goes from room to room and tells everyone. “Did you know today is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing?”
My dear friend Lisa and I were talking about books the other day, and when I said how much I loved Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, she lit up — “Oh, Grandpa Wendell!!” Now I can’t think of him any other way. :) One of his poems, “How To Be A Poet (to remind myself)” is SO GOOD, and anytime I use it in class, students quietly and instinctively lean in. There’s a feeling that we’re hearing wise and instructive words. Afterward, I invite them to write a poem of their own based on Grandpa Wendell’s example. So here’s his poem, followed by the prompt . . .
A long time ago, when my boys were in elementary school, we drove home from school on a really windy day—the trees bent sideways, the car shook with every big gust, and traffic lights swung from their wires. Leaves swirled everywhere. At a red light, a bunch of crows blew over the intersection like scraps of black paper.
I’ve been reading The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky after a colleague at Pacific University used it in a freshman humanities class. Students loved the writing style, the science-based content, and the practical suggestions. As far as self-help books go, this one’s fun!
Lately I’ve been practicing one of the many “happiness-enhancing” activities in the book: Savoring Life’s Joys. It’s basically slowing down to notice and absorb whatever goodness is unfolding in the present moment.
Have you heard of the parenting book, All Joy and No Fun? I almost bought that book just for the title! It reminds me that joy and fun aren’t the same thing. In fact — strange as it may sound — savoring life’s joys usually opens me to things that are tinged with sadness.
Last week I got this email from a student:
I woke up feeling pretty light headed and had a super bag soar throat. I won’t be in class today, is there anything I need to do to have all my dicks in a row on Friday?”
(I love teaching. I really do. :))
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”.