Second Chance

Today I have an essay up on The Establishment. It was a hard one to write and a hard one to share.

The title I gave it was “Second Chance,” because while the essay addresses a deeply fraught relationship, I also think that it points to the fact that we are not trapped when we have choices about how we treat others.

It is important to me: this issue of judgment, of being quick to judge–and to condemn–before taking time to understand. I believe that the key to saving ourselves, each other and our world lies in empathy. Not in blame or even forgiveness. Empathy.

Blogs and Grace

Today, I want to share with you three of my favorite blogs. When I read them, I feel touched by truth, kindness, beauty and humor. Is that not grace?

Here they are:

Melodye Shore’s blog, A Joyful Noise.

The first thing you’ll notice is Melodye’s photographs. Often of birds, hummingbirds in particular. She writes with a tone of reverence and wonder. She is the epitome of a “witness.” She lets us see what she sees and invites us to make our own judgments. She is a powerful presence.

Julie Christine Johnson’s blog

Julie’s photos of sunrise, sunset and seascape, are as evocative as her writing. She shares her thoughts about her journey as a writer and so much more with humility and so much generosity. She is one of those people who can transport you, happily, to her world.

Samantha Irby’s blog, Bitches Gotta Eat

Samantha’s writing is fierce, funny, wise and TRUE. I can say no more. Just: yes, read it.

Love in the Bathroom

This article was in response to a submission request for stories about intimacy for a new online magazine, Together.guide, about relationships.

I was a little embarrassed when I submitted it, but then realized it’s nothing much different from our usual dinner conversation. (“Mo-om,” I hear my kids say.)

And it is the truth– literally it did happen, and my husband did say all those things, and also, this is just as much what love is– more so, maybe–than what you see and hear about.

The magazine is out there a bit for me, but it is quite sincere in its exploration. I now know that I have lived a sheltered life, but I am so glad that people are having these conversations.

Echoes

What do you think?

First, a poem, “Gone From My Sight,” written by my father’s great-grandfather, Henry Van Dyke. The name was familiar to me, but I hadn’t read any of his work. It came to my attention now because of my father’s recent death.

Below it is a poem, “Penelope,” written by my daughter when she was fourteen. We were studying poetry, and she was at a loss for an idea to write about. We had just read Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” so I suggested that she write a poem in response to that, from Penelope’s point of view. Read what she wrote (it was partially excerpted in my essay, “Letting Go: In Her Words” published last month in Hippocampus Magazine.

Tell me if you don’t see the one in the other.

 

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

 

Penelope

Perhaps you think I have waited, for you
In a cushioned chair, my feet propped
On an embroidered footstool.
Nay, I have had naught
But clever foes’ daggers at my back
Who design to sever my resolve: to stand fast
Beside the windblown crags, for you.
The salted sea has been changeless for me
Day after day, while you
Have drunken to battle-lust and glory
On the windy plains of a distant land.
Now you say you are but a name,
A blade lacking burnishing.
I have stood fast, for your name, Ulysses,
I, your aged wife, have stood beside
This grey shore, with only a name
For twenty years.

In your westward glancing heart I glimpse
That heart which hath moved heaven and earth:
Keen swords, flashing fire, falling stars
Beyond your drenched mast—
I knew you then, I know you now.
The yearning gust that blew you in
Will blow you out again.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail,
So go;
And if you seek beyond the arch
Of your desires, you will
Forever sail for me
Along the froth-edged waves
Of the sunset sea.

More Waiting

Does everything seem to you to be on hold?

I am still waiting. On so many things. It isn’t passive, the waiting. It isn’t that I am throwing up my hands and giving up. It’s just that so many next steps depend on the decisions of others, who can’t be hurried.

I am trying to use this time wisely. To not treat it as interim, but worthy in its own right. It is a challenge.

To fortify myself:

Waiting – Poem by John Burroughs
Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

More Barry Schwartz: Why We Cling to Beliefs and Ideals

Nick Wetta, from Story Riot, has a great interview with Barry Schwartz about  Why We Cling to Beliefs and Ideals.  Nick put together a quick video as well.

I can never get enough of Barry. He just makes such good sense. His thoughts about making work meaningful are of particular value to parents, whose work raising children can often seem full of mundane, repetitive tasks.

Here is a link to my interview with Barry, this one about children and choice.

 

 

Dog Science

Science has discovered—or confirmed, I’m not sure—either way, someone actually studied this stuff in some sort of formal way—that dogs are jealous. No joke. Science has also concluded that dogs understand the meaning and tone of our words.

I know about this because, while I am too lazy to do so, my husband Ray reads The New Scientist Magazine, among others, and he reports to me the interesting stuff. So I feel like I have a pretty good deal going on.

This morning, on our daily walk in the woods with our dog, I was laughing about how she has to stick her nose into every snowy footprint: deer, rabbits, something smaller. It really is a bonanza for her.

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“But it makes sense,” I said to Ray.

We all know that dogs “see” with their noses, but I have discovered something else, and I wonder aloud if it applies to other animals as well—if that’s why footprints are of special interest.

I don’t know about your dog, but our dog has a warm, puppy smell—even though she is now eight years old—that she exudes when she is happy. I have done extensive, rigorous scientific research (a.k.a.: cuddling on the couch) and I have tracked down the source of this smell, which, I will add, is a strong cuddle-inducer.

It comes from her paws. Yup. The bottom of her feet.

She has other smells that come from other parts of her body.

Turkey shit? That’s from the shoulders. She drops one and then rolls around onto the other, back and forth, until she has completed her toilette.

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She can also, apparently, turn on WMD-level dog breath at will. When she wants attention, she will sit in front of me, staring and panting. “I’m busy,” I say, but she keeps panting, replacing the airspace around me with I-don’t-even-know-what. Until, “Omigod,” I say, flapping my hand, and up I get and she immediately shuts off the viral dog breath and goes boinging out of the room to the door.

On trips, when she is tired of sitting in the back of the car to monitor motorcycle traffic, she also applies the panting dog-breath method to force a stop or, at the least, some awkward, reach-around-behind-the-seat tummy scratches.

This morning, as Ray and I slithered down the hill toward the creek—there are a few inches of snow over ice—we decided that perhaps that is the next topic for science to investigate: do all dogs, in fact, have a warm, puppy smell, and if so, where does it come from? What about other animals?

“Or,” Ray says, as our dog yanks a stick out of the snow and charges full speed back up the hill, “they could find out whether dogs like new snow.”

 

 

January: Waiting

Waiting

 

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought for you are not ready for thought.

So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.

~T.S. Eliot