Angels in Shipwrecks: Place, Politic and Spirit in Modern Life
I loved the collective jump-and-kick-your-heels together feeling that few Americans could resist proclaiming after voting this week. My own moment of glee included a sense that I had fulfilled my purpose as a human being for the day (enough to justify shirking all other responsibilities to stay home, eat leftover Halloween candy and nerdily watch election coverage on tv? No?)
On Election Day, all voting adults get to revert back to elementary school, earning a sticker for participation and wearing it proudly for everyone to see.
Two political conventions to elect a president. Microphones and megaphones. Facebook stands and Twitter wit. Speeches and rhetoric. Protesters, pundits.
On the last day I saw this photo. After all the words that have filled the last two weeks, it gave me all I wanted to add.
Freedom of Speech: Messy. Beautiful. Complicated. Necessary.
"Two protesters at left stop to share a kiss Wednesday in uptown Charlotte, N.C., while a man protests against homosexuality. Just steps away, people protest in favor of abortion rights."
On my first day of the second grade, I was the last one to
arrive to class. I was the new kid and there was only one seat left, next
to a girl with a short haircut identical to my own, and a gap between her two front
teeth that braces would close years later.
Almost thirty-two years of friendship with her, I am thinking
about friendships that last. As in most long-standing friendships, this one has
seen its seasons of drift, sending closeness dormant as lives go in different
directions, then suddenly come together again as friendship grows green and alive
from softening, unfrozen ground.
I love the change of pace that comes with attending conferences. They gently jar us from everyday routines and remind us that no matter how old
we are, there is always more to learn and we always have the ability to change.
My first conference was in Tokyo, Japan, a short distance from where I was teaching middle and high school on a U.S.
Navy Base in the late 90s. Last year, I attended a conference to learn about websites, SEO optimization and other eye-glazing skills I
had to severely twist my own arm to learn (via a ticket to San Francisco,
This year, for the first
time in a long while, I did not go to church on Easter. I had no
clear reason why. I had been working hard on a project in the weeks beforehand, and when I finally came up for air, it was 1:00am on Easter morning. I had just
emerged from that luxurious place of concentration so complete that you forget the
rest of the world is there−when you sit down to work for a little while in a coffee shop, and the next time you look up, the room is empty but for the person sweeping the space around you, gently reminding you they closed ten
In the months before I turned 40, I felt little of the angst I’d
heard was supposed to come with entering mid-life. I had a lot to be grateful
for, including the opportunity and ability to do work I enjoy, the countless faces
and kinds of love I’d been shown over the years, and the expectation of more good
things to come.
Then, a week before the big day, I remembered how my childhood
self had viewed this decade. In her eyes, forty was for people who were done growing
up, for parents who delivered clear rules to live by and spent the majority of
their time driving kids to softball, track and field hockey practice.
(April, 2011) Last weekend I saw where all the pictures of Heaven were taken. You know them: they run across movie dreamscapes, fill panoramic frames in the fluorescent-lit offices that claim our winter skin, and stock the marketing photo files of the Calgon and Summer’s Eve back offices.
An hour north of Seattle, every year theSkagit River Valley
streams impossible color across fields waiting hard all year for daffodils, tulips and irises to fill the vast spaces they become in winter. If the sight of them breaks you open with gratitude, you were probably waiting for something too.
I never loved the structured, pre-written prayers of my Catholic upbringing. The Our Father, Hail Mary, The Nicene Creed...I resisted words proclaimed in lock-step with a congregation who knew every phrase and inflection by rote but may or may not have felt the words.
As I saw it, prayers that had been pre-written and approved for repeat recitation always rang, well, a little lazy to me. After all, what did it say to God if I couldn’t take a minute to formulate my own words, if I leaned instead on stoic turns of phrase that matched cement pillars, austere arches, and vast church spaces more than they matched me?
A few weeks ago I visited a friend whose husband had just lost his father. They have a five year-old boy and a girl of seven months. While I was packing for the trip, my friend sent me a text sharing her son’s effort to brighten her husband’s day.
“Daddy,” he said, “I have two surprises for you!”
“I got Shrinky Dinks, and Kaitlin is coming!”
My heart warmed to be included with the esteemedShrinky Dinks
I remembered from childhood, even more so when I pulled onto their street to see her son standing in the driveway waiting for me.
For Timmy, Georgie, Karen, Scott, B & B
I don’t fall in love with other people’s pets easily. I need to see what they’re made of before they’ll be enjoying my undying affection, and I want to feel connected to another soul before it will cuddle on my lap.
If people gravitate toward pets that are similar to themselves, I was surprised to fall hard for two pitbulls who were not even mine. When a close girlfriend got married ten years ago, dogs Timmy and Georgie came with the husband.
I did not like pitbulls.