Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Juno" the Film vs. "Juno" the House!

Friends,

You may think I jest! But I invite you to consider the juxtaposition of the recently Academy-Award nominated film, "Juno" with the recently- discerned- to-be-placed-on-the-market, "1188 Juno"!

Both have Minnesota origins.
Both feature pregnant-with-life-central figures.
Both are searching for parents of their precious creations.
Both capture and reveal a transformational experience at hand.
Both have the power of earning major attention, capturing the hearts and minds of viewers.

I'm just saying, you might consider the two and have good thoughts for their success!?!

I've got much more to say on this topic of "'Juno,' the film," and "Juno, the house," (I've not even gone to "Juno, the Collective," or their namesake, "Juno, the Roman Goddess"!) but that will come later.

For now, enjoy photos documenting the simplification and transformation of 1188 Juno. Your good thoughts for her new owners are most appreciated!

LOVE!
Melissa

Simplification starts here! (Thanks to Brian Mogren for the inspiring Confernce CD's of Fr. Richard Rohr, Tiki Kustenmacher, and Sr. Paula Gonzalez: "The Great Chain of Being: Simplifying our Lives")

Closet before...

Armoire before...

Prayers throughout the process! Buddha, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Mother Theresa:
they are all here!

Unpacking and piling it all...

Aha! Cleared space!

How much stuff do we all really have? Do we really need?
Armoire After!

Closet After!

Sweet!
The first of many loads...

What it is all about!



The Supporting Cast for all this necessary work begins with
Mr. David Mann. Friend, Coach, Cheer-Leader, House-Selling Genius Extraordinaire!

Ms. Gina Woods and Little Henry Mann, family experts in staging and paint color!

Another family of pros: Julie, Dre and Carly Rodriguez -
showing up and providing their own tips on improvement.


Leading Support Chica: Jody Tigges, here sorting books.
To date, this woman has logged more than 40 hours helping me out!


Gen X Blogger, Teacher, Administrator, FRIEND Divine,: Ms. Emily Lilja
(wearing green - the color of TRANSFORMATION!)


Teacher Friend, Former Collaborator, Prayer Warrior and Painter Chica:
Ms. Joy Hanson!

My professional handyman: John Hart.
(who has a lovely heart!)
(Referred by Arlo Dissette, my realtor, thank you very much. Arlo isn't pictured here yet!)

Upstairs bedroom before: Can you picture the wall green?

Steps: before...
Gross, dirty water sucked from carpet...
Steps After!

Removing the tape...

Sweet looking room, don't you think?

A closer look....

Kitchen before: including beige, cracked wall paint...

and cupboards in need of new hardware and a fresh coat of enamel...
Prep work: Putting everything in the center of the room...

My favorite repair item: Mr. Durham's Rock Hard "Water Putty" -
Question: Can it repair broken hearts? :-)

All necessary steps: filling in the cracks, sanding...

Finding joy in the process! Painting as prayer!

Viola! White Walls and tidied top of refrigerator!

Floors before...

Warming the cold tiles....1188 Juno is a construction site, right?

John Hart installing the new flooring...

Aha! New hardware, flooring, touched up cabinets!

Yes, I puttied the old holes in the cabinetry, painted these babies, drilled new openings, and installed each knob and handle myself!
(How to create sweet openings...?)

With items back in their place....

STAY TUNED FOR MORE!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Educational Genocide:" Black Male Students in the US

Friends:

Have you ever heard this term: "educational genocide?"

I was just watching SPNN's re-broadcast of the "Minnesota Minority Educational Partnership" Conference from November, 2007. I heard this woman, Rosa Smith draw a parallel between genocide in Darfur, and genocide here in the US - where young black men are concerned.

It was staggering. Compelling. Overwhelming. And made me take note.

I googled Rosa and found the following online article, from the American Association of School Administrators. I share it with you, as friends, administrators, activists, policy shapers, elected officials, readers of my blog.

With deep concern, prayers, and many questions,
Melissa

http://www.aasa.org/publications/content.cfm?ItemNumber=9479

Halting an Educational Genocide at Home
By Rosa A. Smith


So much of our world today plays out live and in color on our televisions, making us spectators to the triumphs and the tragedies of others. We sit and watch and, if we get bored or troubled by what we see, we change the channel. Rarely do we take action.

I recently watched a documentary about the systematic and intentional killing of black men and boys in Darfur. The images of genocide were disturbing and heartrending. Like millions of other people around the world, I quietly watched the destruction of a people.

Upon reflection, I thought about the parallel genocide of our black male students’ intellect, souls and potential, the destruction of their ambition, economic viability and civic and social participation. I thought about educational genocide.

Webster’s dictionary defines genocide as a systematic planned annihilation of a religious, racial, political or cultural group. We may debate whether it’s intentional or unintentional, but when we take a critical look at past data and current trajectory, the notion of educational genocide of black male students must come to mind.

A Deafening Silence

Where is the voice of moral outrage over the educational genocide of black male students? The status of our black boys is not about the children as much as it is about the adults, and unfortunately, the silence in our society, in our profession, is deafening.

In the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” Don Cheadle, playing hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, says, “They are not sending help. We will have to save ourselves.” When I share this quote with black parents, I tell them that educators will not do right by their black sons unless they make us and help us do right. And I say to my colleagues: If you are honestly serious about your voiced intent to educate black boys well, you are going to have to do it yourself. No one from Secretary Spellings’ office or the governor’s office or the school board or the teachers’ union is coming to help you.

Those of us who profess to care about black boys will have to step up to save them. What will happen if we sit on our hands and just let things continue as they are now? Consider some realities about being a black male student in America and ask yourself this: What am I doing to intervene?

* Black male students start being pushed out of the education stream in incredible numbers as 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool;

* Black male students do not read well enough early enough to be successful in school;

* Black male students are placed in special education disproportionately more than any other group of students. Black male students are rarely seen in gifted and Advanced Placement classes;

* Black male students are disciplined more often than any other group of students and more often receive the most severe penalty;

* Seventy percent of the black boys who enter 9th grade in many school districts will not graduate with their peers four years later; and

* Too many of those who are paid to serve students have a negative perception of nearly all black male students.

Black male students have no reason to trust adults for we have not given them a reason to do so.

When was the last time you created the trusting space and sought advice from black male students and their parents? Where is the evidence that you treat the black boys and their families with respect and fairness?

Stepping Up

While president of the Schott Foundation, I initiated the Schott Foundation Achievement Awards for the Excellent Education of Black Male Students. When we asked the young black men in the honored schools about their success — and that included students in a school in Harlem where more than 90 percent of the black students go on to college — their message was simple: The principals and teachers treated them fairly and with respect and encouraged them to do better, to take harder classes. We talked with the adults in the schools. Without exception, they all had high expectations for their black male students and pushed and supported them to excel.

Phillip Jackson, executive director of Black Star project and a national advocate for improving life chances of black male students, offers solutions that merit consideration. These include teaching all black boys to read at grade level by 3rd grade; providing positive role models; investing as much money in educating black boys as in locking up black men; connecting black boys to a positive vision of themselves in the future; creating high expectations and helping black boys live up to those high expectations; teaching black boys self-discipline, culture and history; and teaching black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning.

Today is not a good day for our black boys. We must stop being spectators to their educational genocide and become the change agents we seek for them. As author James Baldwin said, “These are all our children and we will pay for or benefit by whatever they become.”

Rosa Smith, a former superintendent, is regional education director for New Leaders for New Schools, 30 W. 26th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10010. E-mail rsmith@nlns.org

Friday, January 25, 2008

English Teacher meets Priest: Reflecting on the Conversion Story of Saul, aka. "St. Paul"

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. And whether you believe in saints, are Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim, or straight-out-atheist, there is a story here that is worthy of a bit of examination. As a former English teacher, I find it fascinating. As a woman who has felt at times called to be a priest, I am moved by this text. As a human, trying to make her way on the planet, it sort of inspires me. I offer my two cents from these many perspectives, and with many emotions and questions compelling me to write.

Saul is a bad-mother-fucker, to put it bluntly. He is kicking people's asses; Christian's asses to be precise. Rounding them up, putting them in chains, "taking care of," what he feels is, "his business." And for some reason, he has been compelled to lock up the Christ-loving folks. (The psychological motivation of that - in and of itself - just fascinates me. "Why fear the Christians? What was happening that they needed to be locked up? Why was Saul on fire about doing this himself? Did he know any Christians? Did they threaten him? Hurt him somehow?" I wonder how he compares to others who hate Muslims, or Jews? Could we compare Saul with a member of the Al-qaeda? How about juxtaposing Hitler with Saul? Are there fair comparisons between one who fears and persecutes Christians, with another who fears and persecutes people with different skin pigmentation, or sexual orientation? hmmm...)

I suppose as a former English teacher, that's the character-analysis side of me kicking in, wanting to ask questions and dig in to motivation, exploring a figure's passion, drive, their compelling reasons for doing what they do. It's also my political/ analytical/ social-justice motivated mind.

And then I ask: "Does Saul even know why he does what he does?"
Yeah, that's a question I can ask about him, as well as hosts of other figures that show up in literature, in history, in our present-day churches and leadership.

But back to the plot of this story.

Saul is on the road to Damascus, going about his business, and has this crazy experience. A big light shows up, he hears a loud voice, and he falls off his donkey. (Actually, the text version I have doesn't say this exactly. It just says he "falls to the ground." For dramatic effect, I see him falling off his donkey. He's like Rumi meeting Shams: leveled to the earth, on his butt.) It is in this falling to the ground business that I am smacked square in my own chest.

Wooohoowee!

To be leveled? To be knocked down!? To be hit so strongly, by anything - whether it be light, a voice, a bat, a bomb, love -- it's a physical, visceral experience, that not only stops you in your tracks. It alters your very stance and manner of being for a moment. Everything shifts. You have no choice in the matter. You have been struck down. Leveled. And you have to re-evaluate your position in perhaps not only the world, but at least in your immediate circumstances.

This moment in the tale of Saul always gives me pause. I want to know what it felt like. If I'm there, while he's re-telling the story, and I get to ask him questions, they go something like this:
"Did the wind get knocked out of you?"
"Where did the light come from?"
"Was it like lightening? Or a star exploding?" "Or a car bomb going off?" Was there dust or any quaking in the ground?
What did your friends say?"
"How come they didn't fall down, too?"
"Did it hurt?"
"What's it like to be blinded by the light?"
("Have you ever heard of Manfred Man?" )

In the story then, he hears the voice of God. No. Correction, the voice of Jesus. And again, whether you believe in "Christ as Savior," "Son of God," "Lord" or not, this point of action is fantastic beyond fantastic. It's where, as listeners, we are invited into the supernatural, right?

We could interview Saul from doubtful space, or a faithful stance, and the questions are similar:
"What did the voice sound like? Did it freak you out? Did anyone else hear it? Do you hear voices often? Have you been examined by a doctor recently? Has anyone told you, you are crazy? Was the voice deep, or screechy? Were you afraid? What did you feel like at that moment?"

The business of the supernatural is vital here, for the faithful reader or the inspired agnostic or the amused lit buff. All must make a choice, if he or she is going to fully "get" the tale. As readers we ask ourselves: Do I buy this notion of an invisible, or light-filled presence speaking? Can I appreciate the tale, otherwise? Have I myself ever encountered the inexplicable? The unreasonable? What happens if I just go with the fact that Saul said it happened, and believe him? What else could account for what happened to him? And: what else might account for what happens next?

Because what happens next: is Saul is changed. He is transformed. Blinded, he must be lead to Damascus. Blinded, he is no longer in charge. He heard something, he saw something, and then everything changed. He lost all of his power. All that was familiar is suddenly foreign. Knocked down, reprimanded by this Jesus fellow, he is now being lead to the place where he had plans to persecute the friends of this Jesus fellow.

Woah.
And he has a choice to make.
"Do I heed this guy's words? Or do I clobber and rail away on these folks that follow Christ?"
The scripture reading doesn't take us into what was transpiring in Saul's mind at the time. But as a contemplative, as a teacher, as a reader, I like to go there. I like to wonder:
"What if it were me? What if I was knocked on my ass, and heard some voice telling me to do something: To alter my whole life and mission? What if I lost my ability to see? Who would I trust? What would I trust? Could I count on my own faculties or own manner of discerning or decision-making? In other words, 'Could I trust myself?' Where am I leaning? What things would I want to weigh in those moments?"

And then Ananias shows up. Ananias, as the tale goes, is the Divinely-appointed Healer of Saul, who restores his vision, and offers him forgiveness. As he states:

Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

And then reveals his next plan and purpose:

'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'"
I think at this point, all I can say, as reader, reflector, wondering-wandering woman:
Where is my Ananias? or How many times has Ananias showed up in my life and taken off my blinders, or revealed my next steps? Do I delay? What is this baptism business? What is necessary for me to inch forward in my own journey? Can a conversion tale help me on my own path? Could God be real and talking to me?


Hmmmm.....

No answers, just living in the questions!

Peace, Love, Happy Contemplating!
Melissa

***

Reading 1
Acts 22:5-16
"On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
I replied, 'Who are you, sir?'
And he said to me,
'I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, 'What shall I do, sir?'
The Lord answered me, 'Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.'
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

"A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.'
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Lord Byron Poem: "When We Two Parted."

From the public domain, via the Writer's Almanac and my email inbox: We have Lord Byron!

I know very little of Lord Byron. Very Little. So to read this poem here -- of the heart, of departures, of grieving, of secret affairs. Well, it makes me wonder: What up?

Who was this guy?
Who did he love? Was it a woman? Could it have been a man? (Does it matter!? !) Why the secret?
Why in the opening stanza is he only half-broken hearted? (Is that simply his pre-cursory emotion to the final break, or realization of the finality of this love?)

How does one "rue" another? What does that sound like? Look like?

How much rue-ing is going on around the planet at this moment?

Hmmm.....Happy contemplating!

Melissa


Poem: "When We Two Parted" by Lord Byron. Public Domain.

When We Two Parted

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Re-Evaluating Everything....A prayer of/for/about: Grace!

Friends,

This prayer of Fr. Richard Rohr's (copied below) speaks wildly to my heart today. I extend it prayerfully to you and to your own circumstances....

Some questions from my own contemplative space:

What does it mean to re-evaluate everything?
Where do we find solid ground?
Is there stability of any kind?
What is this journey all about?
How do I pause long enough - and breathe deeply and slowly enough - to ward off aggression?
How do I embrace this second, this moment, and know joy and happiness - in the midst of all that is unknown and scary?
How many times will I ask, can I ask, these questions!?
Is laughing during prayer okay? Ha!

..........................

I love Rohr's three examples from his life that invite re-evaluation of everything for him:

- Visiting The Third World;
- Becoming a Franciscan;
- (Working at/co-founding) New Jerusalem.

I point directly to my own corresponding life-changing experiences (and invite you do so as well, right?):
-Winning a State Championship the day my best friend killed himself;
-Working as an Inner-City, Public School Teacher in and through the Arts;
-Traveling to South Africa.

Hmmm......
In each of these experiences, there is some deep and Divine encounter with Love.

I have a lot more to think about and write on.

I just wanted to send you all a prayerful thought today. And extend Love and Peace, amidst the questions!

Enjoy Rohr's words below. I hope you are able to celebrate your own thoughts with patience and compassion!

Yes, Peace,
Melissa


"Near Occasions of Grace"

We want to plant ourselves in near occasions of grace, yet we spend all our life avoiding near occasions of sin. Can there be situations that we allow ourselves to enter which will force us to reevaluate everything? That is certainly what the Third World did for me. That's what joining the Franciscans as a young man did for me, thats what New Jerusalem did for me. You have to find those situations and contexts and ways of looking out at the world, so you will feel and think differently about reality. It won't come just from sermons and books. We are converted through new circumstances. Grace best gets at us when our guard is down.

Richard Rohr in A Mans Approach to God

http://www.cacradicalgrace.org/getconnected/dailyreflection.html

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Birthday William Stafford!

Thank you, Garrison Keillor, Writer's Almanac, and Public Radio for this divine information! William Stafford poetry has saved my life, moved my life, invited me to stay-put-in-my-life, and love in ways that I never knew possible. I am thankful to William Stafford and the Universe that created this man, this poet, this kind of prophet. Join me in celebrating his birth! Read a poem or two of his and breathe deeply.

I've copied one of my favorites below the bio: "A Ritual to Read to Each Other."

***

It's the birthday of poet William Edgar Stafford, born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914, the same year as American poets Weldon Kees and Randall Jarrell and John Berryman. Among his best-known books are The Rescued Year (1966), Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (1977), Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation (1978), and An Oregon Message (1987).

Stafford received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Kansas at Lawrence and, in 1954, a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. During the Second World War, he was a conscientious objector. He refused to be inducted into the U. S. Army. From 1940-1944 he was interned as a pacifist in civilian public service camps in Arkansas and California where he fought fires and built roads. He wrote about the experience in the 94-page prose memoir Down In My Heart (1947), which opens with the question, "When are men dangerous?"

In 1948 Stafford moved to Oregon to teach at Lewis and Clark College. His first major collection of poems, Traveling Through the Dark (1962), was published when Stafford was 48. It won the National Book Award for poetry in 1963. He said, "At the moment of writing... the poet does sometimes feel that he is accomplishing an exhilarating, a wonderful, a stupendous job; he glimpses at such times how it might be to overwhelm the universe by rightness, to do something peculiarly difficult to such a perfection that something like a revelation comes. For that instant, conceiving is knowing; the secret life in language reveals the very self of things."

Stafford usually wrote in the early morning. He sat down with a pen and paper, took a look out the window, and waited for something to occur to him. He wrote about simple things like farms and dead deer and winter. He wrote about the West and his parents and cottonwood trees. He wrote, "In the winter, in the dark hours, when others / were asleep, I found these words and put them / together by their appetites and respect for / each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded / meanings while pretending to have only one."

Stafford served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1970, a post now designated "American Poet Laureate." He published more than 65 volumes of poetry and prose. He was a professor of English at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, until his retirement in 1990. He died on August 28, 1993 at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon. About his own works, Stafford once commented, "I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."

***


A Ritual to Read to Each Other
by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press.
Reprinted with permission.


If you don't know the kind of person I am

and I don't know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,

a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood

storming out to play through the broken dyke.


And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,

but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,

I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe—

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Living with Hope" A Reflection on Fr. Nouwen's Prayer for Today

Living with Hope

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things - the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on - will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let's live with hope. -Fr. Henri Nouwen

I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one on the planet who has periods when they feel hopeless.

This business of selling my house, paying off all of my debt, and inching forward in my dreams, (toward the greater call to love and create well - in some sustainable fashion!): well, that's EXCITING! But it's a lot. It's a lot to hold, to carry, to move in and through, and stay positive and hopeful about. (This image of a little turtle hauling a house 10 times his size uphill just flashed into my brain.) Ack!

But the thing is: I don't have to HOLD this all. I don't have to haul it all myself either. And I'm not! It's more apparent to me now, than ever before in my 39 years on the planet: that I'm not completely in charge and in control and making all right-action in my life happen. Huh-uh. Because it's just not humanly possible. There's definitely Someone, Something Greater at work here. And knowledge of that Power, is the underpinning of this blasted Hope business.

But it's hard! It's really hard to believe! Especially when you have formulated and been reassured that "YOU ARE IN CHARGE" and "YOU ARE IN CONTROL" and "YOU ARE ALL POWERFUL."

***

In sixth grade, Joey Schulte, this hot older boy at Sacred Heart in Norfolk, Nebraska, said to me: "Girl, it looks like you've been hauling five gallon buckets your whole life." I was dumbfounded by what that meant.

Am I wobbly? Are my arms spread at a distance from my body? Do my hands constantly curl around imaginary handles? Do I always have a look of carrying a heavy load?

Needless to say, Mr. Schulte's comment made a lasting impression in my mind. "I'm the girl that hauls things." (Why couldn't I be the hot girl? The sweet girl? The funny girl? The cute girl? The sassy girl? Let's not go there. That's another blog!)

Oh, the undoing of the Joey Schulte comments in our minds: this is a call I believe we all have!

While I'm fairly certain - that on some level - Joey did think he was flattering me by noting some apparent strength I possessed, it's taken me years to unravel this concept and embrace the fact and GIFT that I'm not carrying this load by myself. As of late, I'm aware that I'm not carrying anything! God, the Divine, Love, some Angels, Ancestors, my Friends, the Handyman, my Realtor, Arlo -- they are carrying things! They are carrying me! And they are giving me hope!

I like what Nouwen says, or reminds me of here - that I don't need to know what the future looks like. I just need to live in this present moment, trust that all of life is in good hands, in other words: have hope.

Hmmm....Yes!

On that note, I'm going to clean. Which, incidentally, does involve two large buckets that I get to carry.

Oh....one step a time!

Peace, blessings, giggles,
Melissa

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jesus, the Lizard

I write lots of poems. I'm fascinated by the imagery and metaphor offered by my Christian faith. (Well, all faith ideas and language excite me, actually!) And when I'm angry, sad, searching, trying especially to stay put, I make these feeble attempts at seeing and identifying the immediate moment in some kind of image, some kind of language -- that creates or captures or conveys the Divine at play before my eyes.

So what follows is from this space of contemplative writing and prayer work. This falls on the heels of a series of Advent and Christmas poems, that perhaps someday will become a tiny collection for larger consumption.

Today. It's simply my prayer therapy.

If this speaks to you, let me know. Oh. I'm in a mood, you'll see. Dire, dark, doubting. Writing the poem is a form of exercise, (exorcise!)

Ultimately, all who read my blog are aware that light and joy and love cast out the dark. But tending to the dark, is vital for knowing illumination.

peace,
Melissa


"Jesus, the Lizard"

by Melissa Borgmann

Expectant of a pink or brown skinned baby,
(whatever tone your ethnicity invites you to imagine)
Writhing limbs, wrinkled and fresh from birth:
Arrival into this scene, onto the Earth!
Balmy babe with lungs that scream a divine song, "Hello!"

And I walk toward the star.
My own gifts in hand, (oil, matches, myrrh...all redundant.)
I'm glad for the wise company, of course, and this invitation from
the sky,
from dreams,
from God:
to follow.

We inch forward collectively.
Trusting each step in the sand,
the dissolution of no concern:
Faith tells us what is concrete and ahead.
And we step.

Arriving finally, peering into that space,
only to see:
Leathered horny flesh and tail -
Straw-bound and cradled,
an exhausted mother revealing nothing save for done-ness.

Imagine our dismay.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"The Light, please!": A reflection on today's poem

Don't we all want a little light when dis-assembling something?
Assembly?
Yes!
Why not dis-assembly?!

***

I'm just thinking of last night. Standing in the shadowy hallway of my home, where I am actively conquering dark corners, darker closets, and unpacking them. Taking things down, out, looking at them, laying them aside.

"I must clean!"
I will clean.
I do clean.

Last night's surprise contents of this supposed linen and medical supplies closet:
Includes the never-opened-embroidered-pillow-cases-From Laura Ashley in London.
(Good God! The sticker price in pounds was still fixed to the packaging! Who was it that was in London, before the European Common Market, and returned with this delightful gift? Hmmm....)

It is Christmas again.
Over and over in my house, these days, as my own un-packaging/ unpacking goes.

***

And that takes me back into the heart of this poem by Jane Kenyon.
It's after Christmas. Taking down the tree. She is at work in her own dis-assembly.
Bless Ms. Kenyon as she aligns this process with death! (Murder!)

Read the poem! Read and breathe it in.
Go to her description of the lingering balsam fir. The scent in memory, in unlit spaces.

Oh, if we all might have, or know extravagance in such seemingly dark times....

This is my prayer for the day.

LOVe!
Melissa

Poem: "Taking Down the Tree" by Jane Kenyon, from Collected Poems (buy now) © Graywolf Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

Taking Down the Tree

"Give me some light!" cries Hamlet's
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. "Light! Light!" cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it's dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother's childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.

With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.

By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it's darkness
we're having, let it be extravagant.



Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cracking Open - Reflection on today's poem

Have I ever had a guy friend whose wife has left him? (Have you?)

Can't say that this has happened to me personally. But the notion of being "cracked open," I recognize. In being left myself.

Abandonment, seeming abandonment (I mean: are we ever truly "LEFT"?) invites transformation.

Seeds crack and then grow. Takes a lot of water and sunlight, though.

(Again, all first hand experience. Doesn't take being male and divorced to get there.)

Enjoy Ms. Bass' work; the landscape and gardening she gets to by the end of the poem - is reassuring.

(I recognize the desire to garden well. )

Peace, Smiles,

Melissa

Poem: "I Love the Way Men Crack" by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love, Vol. 1. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2002. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

I Love the Way Men Crack

I love the way men crack
open when their wives leave them,
their sheaths curling back like the split
shells of roasted chestnuts, exposing
the sweet creamy meat. They call you
and unburden their hearts the way a woman
takes off her jewels, the heavy
pendant earrings, the stiff lace gown and corset,
and slips into a loose kimono.
It's like you've both had a couple shots
of really good scotch and snow is falling
in the cone of light under the street lamp—
large slow flakes that float down in the amber glow.

They tell you all the pain pressed into their flat chests,
their disappointed penises, their empty hands.
As they sift through the betrayals and regrets,
their shocked realization of how hard they tried,
they way they shouldered the yoke
with such stupid good faith—
they grow younger and younger. They cry
with the unselfconciousness of children.
When they hug you, they cling.
Like someone who's needed glasses for a long time—
and finally got them-they look around
just for the pleasure of it: the detail,
the sharp edges of what the world has to offer.

And when they fall in love again, it only gets better.
Their hearts are stuffed full as ├ęclairs
and the custard oozes out at a touch.
They love her, they love you, they love everyone.
They drag out all the musty sorrows and joys
from the basement where they've been shoved
with mitts and coin collections. They tell you
things they've never told anyone.
Fresh from loving her, they come glowing
like souls slipping into the bodies
of babies about to be born.

Then a year goes by. Or two.
Like broken bones, they knit back together.
They grow like grass and bushes and trees
after a forest fire, covering the seared earth.
They landscape the whole thing, plant like mad
and spend every weekend watering and weeding.