Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Magic of Magic

My eldest is in first grade now and starting to read transitional chapter books. For over a year his favorite literary journeys have included accompanying Jack and Annie of The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborn to exotic times and places. He and my daughter have learned about medieval castles, volcanoes, the Terracotta Army, and the knights of Camelot. They've witnessed bravery, collaboration, and the utility of both research and action. They've learned that what you say actually does matter.

Since I have involved myself in the exploration of the series by reading or listening to the books together, I've been able to use the ideas from the stories as teaching tools. When my children argue, I have said, "Would Jack speak to Annie that way?" When I wanted to remind them to come when I call, I shout for Jack and Annie rather than scream my children's names and, taking on the characteristics of the fictional siblings they yell, "Coming Mommy," and race toward me. What's not to love?

Oh, that's right, there's magic. Shudder!

My children might learn to believe in magic. They might believe the impossible -- Maybe like Edison did before he invented the lightbulb. Or maybe they will not simply dream the unthinkable, but, like Martin Luther King try to enact it. Perhaps through the magics of creativity, of reason, of bravery and action they can change their lives, and others', for the better.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fullness of Life

Time is like a prostitute: lending herself to everyone, but giving herself to no one. Life rushes by in a series of moments; "now" experiences that become yesterday before one has time to savor them today. I rush paradoxically toward planned tomorrows while struggling to capture today with pictures and videos and diary notes so I can cherish my memories someday… when I have time.

More than one hundred years of moments forgotten in an instant as the last breath of life is exhaled. The uniqueness of my Grandfather's knowledge, perspective, and experience deleted completely with his death, inaccessible for the rest of time. Snippets of his life are retained in the memories of at least a hundred others, but they are our memories colored by our own perspectives. His singular experience is lost and, just as innumerable persons before him, he will be totally forgotten in a generation or two, as will I.

It seems we race before this precipice of death, which keeps pace with us, just one step behind. An accident, poor health, old age, anything can cause us to trip up, loose our balance and fall into the abyss of whatever constitutes death. In a desperate attempt to stave off the unavoidable, many treat the symptoms with surgery, drugs, and miracle cures as if by saying, "I don't look like I'm growing old," one might live forever. But we don't.

Life is short because life is now. This moment is it. My son protecting his toys from his very mobile baby sister, my Mom reading to her grandchildren, a final impression of the peaceful face of my Grandfather before he is buried. This is life: the joy, the sadness,
the fullness of life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Love Me

The word "my" should be banned from the English language, except as it relates to inanimate objects like the TV. I can watch my TV. I can turn it on or off. I can move it from room to room or smash it and throw it away.

This evening, my husband came over and began caressing me. I was busy. It annoys me to be interrupted when I'm busy. I brushed him off.

"What?" he exclaimed in a psuedo-injured tone. "I can't help it. You're so sexy. I like to caress my breasts."

"They aren't your breasts," I say.

"Our breasts, then," he capitulates.

"They aren't our breasts either," I say. "They're mine."

But are they mine? Without serious damage to me, I cannot take them off nor move them into another room nor, no matter how much I hate their drooping programming, can I smash them and throw them away. Certainly I could pay someone else to knock me out to do the deed, but I cannot force my will on them. I can't force my will on any part of me, except maybe my hair or nails, which I can cut off. But once it's clippings, it's inanimate.

I better not "try to take better care of my heart," as if I can get it tuned up or have a new one installed, like in a car. If it goes, I go. We are one. It is a part of me. Not mine. Me.

Then we take this obscene possessive noun and apply it to the individuals living with us. "My husband." As if I can force him to talk or listen to me, as if I can turn him on or off, or place him in the part of the room I find him most suitable. Or, if I don't find his picture quality satisfactory or if the sound isn't coming out right, I can't, or shouldn't even if I could, smash him up and toss him out.

The children in my house are not mine either. I cannot force them to eat their vegetables or fall asleep on my timetable or think what I want them to think.

My will cannot be forced on anyone else without harming them and it is exceedingly frustrating to try, only leading to abuse.

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

"Do unto others what you would have done to you."

If you are faithful in the small, you will gain greater responsibility.

Do I love me? Do I treat me with respect? Am I faithful in the care of the only person over whom I can actually assert my will? This is not a case of selfishness or self-spoiling, which is not self-love. This is true self-knowledge, even of the bad stuff, self-acceptance despite the knowing and self-respect. If I can't learn to love myself, if I treat me as a possession, how can I possibly know how to treat in a loving manner the man who has chosen to live with me or
the children whom I have birthed?

I won't. I will treat them the same way I treat myself: manipulating, communicating dishonestly, behaving disrespectfully. I will be unloving, possessive, as if they is mine; my objects to place and use at will.

I don't want to teach my children to be responsible and behave unselfishly. I don't want to parrot "Do unto others what you would have done to you." I want to teach my children, by example, something altogether different. I want to learn self-love and have it spill over, thereby teaching them self-love; self-protective, self-accepting, self-determining love. And their love will spill out and over. And we will love our neighbor as ourselves. And we will be perfect. As God is perfect.

At least, sometimes...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I want you, Mommy. Where have you gone? It is two years since I've seen you.

Is that you there, that lady with the short dark hair? Will she turn to embrace me? No. Her own children consume her. Is that you online, editing my work with a sure and steady mind? No. Her mind attends to her own family. Is that you, taking up my children, to teach them as you loved to do? No. Her arms open to recieve her own grandchildren.

I struggle to find her, desperate to see some piece of her to comfort me, to thrill in my offspring, to laugh at my husband. Clever, critical, intelligent, detailed, ingenious. I cannot find her.

Who holds the memories of my childhood? They are lost. Of family occasions and traditions? In imperfection I struggle to uphold them. She who knew dates and hows and whos... she is missing. She is not with my Dad. She is not here. She is not, but in my heart.

My hands remember her instruction as I peel potatoes. My ears recall her voice. My mind replays memories my eyes will never see. My skin yearns for her soft, cool hands, sometimes gentle, sometimes firm, but always hers.

To whom can I ask those questions only my mother can answer? They hide in my heart, unasked, like lost children in the shadows of desolate buildings. They don't know where to go. They hunger for knowledge, but starve.

"Are you my Mama?" I cry to the women who pass. No. They shake their heads. Their eyes fill with fleeting pity. A rememberance of their own loss, or perhaps a recognition of what will come.

The faces, the hands, the embraces are not hers; will never be hers. Lost, the woman who, with the complete knowledge of one who nursed, weaned and reared another, gave unshakable love, honest friendship, and immovable acceptance.

I grasp desperately for the bough from the tree that seeded me, but it has been hewn. The boughs of my beloved shade tree have been carted away to be burned. Ashes. I sift through the ashes. The wind lifts them away... voice, touch, laughter, opinion. Gone...

So I weep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Power of Words

And they are powerful. Their nuanced shades shape both individual thoughts and social mores. An example?

Fair. My computer thesaurus provides alternative words such as equitable, bright, favorable, blond, creamy light, beautiful. How about Dark? Alternative words include clandestine, ebony, tragic, threatening, evil. I am fair skinned. My friend is dark. The subconscious trappings of each word flashes through the mind, casting each of us in discriminatory colors. 

In the book, The Shack, by William P. Young, God the Father is painted as a large black woman. The perturbation in my mind astounded me. Why did it feel wrong to characterize God this way? Because I have been worshipping a graven image, and she was not part of it. Words have had such an affect on affect on God, the modern version of a white haired, bearded Father figure has ceased to be simply a representation of a greater God. Rather, the image has become the god. Like all idols, this god has lost the power of imaginative thought, the flexibility of alternative forms, and the movement of life. He has become frozen in time, a graven image of words, as static as stone. The only few who can relate to this effigy are the ones who created him, after their own image.

The Word became flesh and called him "Father." The Son also used a hen as a visualization tool. Would it not seem foolish if we felt blasphemous referring to God as anything other than The Hen?

Until I can shatter the Father image, until I can see the face of God in a Young's "Papa," until I expand my vision to see a facet of God in every person who crosses my path, I cannot know the Divine. God is so much bigger. Every face is an image of I Am. He is, she is, I am.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Discovering the Feminine Divine

Since watching the 2001 movie "Laura Croft: Tomb Robber," I've wondered what a strong feminine role model would look like. Somehow, a testosterone based character with a sexy body and double barreled guns wasn't what I was looking for. In the cinematic world, in reality, and in Christianity, women are usually cast as innocent virgins in need of rescue or as sexy vixens.
Women and men are unarguably different. Physiologically, from conception, the Y chromosome oversees the building of a man, the double X's, the sculpting of a woman. Leonard Sax, in Why Gender Matters discusses research after research supporting the differences between the genders. The partitioned male brain versus the integrated female brain, movement focused male eyes, face focused female eyes, even at day one. Fascinating.
That rules out both men and Laura Croft as my feminine role models.
Now I find myself in the midst of reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, by Sue Monk Kidd. As the author points out so clearly and without rancor, modern Christianity is a patriarchal system, with women in a subordinate, supportive position, never equals. Although God is acknowledged to possess both male and female characteristics, God is, nevertheless, referred to as "He." We are "His" creation, "He" is our "Father in Heaven" or "God the Father." So that the mountain of "he's" and "mankind" and God the "Father" serves to tip the balance toward a male God through pervasive use. As Ms. Kidd says, "the word God does not register in us as neuter... what registers and functions in the mind is male" p. 140.
So deeply is the masculine pronoun ingrained, it feels blasphemous to call the Divine, "God the Mother." It feels as though God would be so offended by a degradation to the feminine "He" would strike me with lightning, perhaps through this very keyboard. After all, was not Eve the first to sin? Doesn't she, therefore, deserve to shoulder more of the blame for humanity's depravity? Wasn't it she who tempted Adam into eating the fruit, precipitating the damnation of mankind? Well, that's another discussion altogether...
Most churches have made it their policy to protect the masses from the vixen and her feminine deceit by the prevention of women's ordination, preaching, lead teaching (except in the children's classes, of course), and any other task but those of ancillary and supportive roles. When women pastors are allowed, they continue to labor within the greater patriarchal system, ministering for a overwhelmingly masculine God. This further diminishes a woman's ability to understand God as One who loves womenkind with equal fervor and value as mankind. How can "He" have created me in "His" image, as it states in Genesis 1:26 and 27, when I am a "she?" How can this traditional, paternalistic Divinity understand me?
The closest approximation of a feminine divinity Christianity has is the Catholic Virgin Mary, reverenced to a great degree by Catholics and even by some Protestants. As a holy figure, she poses threat to neither the supremacy of a masculine God, nor as a temptress of men. She is naive, a "handmaiden of the Lord," denied any form of sexuality. Her unrealistic lifelong celibacy (No children are referred to in the Bible until Jesus is an adult, then his brothers are mentioned. See Matthew 12:46. Furthermore, the Bible says Joseph did not touch her until after Jesus was born. See Matthew 1:25) is a golden halo on her brow, her blue robes a shroud to conceal any sensuous curves, her face is a picture of childlike innocence, untainted by the cares or desires of the flesh.
Other prominent Biblical women include Mary Magdalene (tainted by unsubstantiated rumors of prostitution), Martha (yikes, too much hard work), Jael (pounded a tent peg through Sisera's head), Deborah (a judge of Israel: promising, but not enough information), Lot's wife (a pillar of salt), and El Shaddai (God, the breasted one), the Mother who birthed us with hard labor (Deuteronomy 32:18) and who would gather us under Her wings (Matthew 23:37).
Would She make a good role model? Perhaps I could get to know Her better? The next question would be: How?

Monday, April 6, 2009


Three years ago, I was helping take care of my centenarian grandfather. On week days, I would take my toddler boy and infant girl to my parents' home, where Grandpa was living, to help with his personal cares. My mom was midway through the last five years of her life, battling daily pain from a radical surgery that removed a lung infested with mesothelioma. My stress and grief were heavy. Some girlfriends sent me away for a short weekend's respite. At that time, while hiking along a stream and witnessing a log bridging up a small waterfall, I wrote these dark poems:


What is life about?
We are born and die.
We are there and gone.
Babies born, die.
Knowledge, wisdom, personalities, individuals.
All is darkness.
Darker than night.
Blackness without stars.
Darkness without memory of light.
Thick, all consuming
Are you there?
There is nothing.
Nothing before.
A flicker.
Nothing after.
Pain between.
Nothing to nothing.
Who cares?
Why send your son to save that?
It doesn't make sense.

Dead Ladder Up

Stark, grays and browns.
Hard, creases and crevasses.
Points, sharp and slivered.
Warped, smooth and rounded.
A ladder of dead, rising up a waterfall

Gushing and roaring, white with life
Over green, dripping and cool.
Wind rushing and cavorting,
Aerating water, leaping and falling
Under dead ladder up.

Little moss,
Soft and fuzzy
Cool and green on dead.
Growing life persisting,
Continuing, proliferating
Over dead ladder up.

Fearful, slipping and sliding.
Carrying, clutching memories.
Chasing, comforting, surrounding me
Crawling on dead ladder up.

What is there?

Heartbeat pounding, shaking.
Adrenalin rushing.
Found the sun.
Sitting, watching water falling
Under dead ladder up.

Life unto life flowing down, around.
Caressing, incorporating death into life perpetually
around dead ladder up.

Tree grew tall by stream and fall
By brook and flowers, reds and greens
Watched life grow for centuries
Flowing, drying, living, dying
Seeding, drinking, branching, feeding.
Crush, break, dam, boom, death.
Becoming dead ladder up.

Grandpa is an aged tree
Who doesn't want to pass.
Roots entangle deeper,
Clutching life's rich soil.
Roots grown feeble.
Too weak to extract life's essence.
He feels his blood slow,
His branches yield,
His leaves dropped brown
Coat the ground.
Dimly aware, the trunk stands,
Weaker and weaker.
Rocks tumble around, breezes blow.
None strong enough.
None strong enough yet.
But soon.
Too soon for tree, it seems.
To yield it always seems too soon.
He will fall and become
Dead ladder up.

My Love and I

"Look!" says Life,
"My partner, my Love,
Always peaceful, always giving.
Each incarnation provides change,
Food, renewal."

"Look!" says Life,
"My Partner, my Love,
All grays and browns.
Coupled to me by rock and stream.
Fully combined in the richness of the soil,
My Love and I.
Death and Life."

Life and Death merge
In ecstatic union.
A climax for a moment
When all else begins to weep.

Fallen Trees

The dead are like fallen trees.
Feeling nothing.
A memory of their relationships
Stories of their lives
Continue to enrich those who knew them.
Yet those memories decompose.
Fragmenting with time
Until they disappear completely.
A new generation of trees have fallen,
Changing the landscape
of each person's mind.