Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This post is part of Creativity Boot Camp: Day Five.

boot camp


When I was a little girl
I would stand in the middle of the corn fields
and imagine myself rooted in the ground,
growing with the corn stalks,
sun on my face.

When I was in college,
I would stop in sunlit windows
and close my eyes facing the sun.
I'd say to anyone who cared to listen,
"I'm photosynthesizing."

When I was camping
with my husband and daughter
I stood on the beach
with my face in the wind
and opened my arms to the sky
like a tree.

and sunlight
and the wind in my face
have steadied me,
tied me to the earth,
as my life has grown around me,
a crazy wild garden.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Heavy Metal

boot camp

Yes, Creativity Boot Camp is going at its own pace in my house. And I don't know when I'll finish. That's not the point. At least, that's what they tell me over there. So, bear with me. While everyone else is finished. I am on Day Four.

When I was about five months pregnant, Mango and I went to the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast in New York Mills, MN. I brought along my prenatal yoga DVD and practiced every day in our very own train car while Mango tried to convince me that pregnancy looked good on me. He even took my picture while I was up to me ears in bubble bath. (Yes, the train car had a whirlpool tub.)

We came home with a heavy chunk of metal as a souvenir: a railroad spike painted gold, the signature gift of the Whistle Stop B&B. It was such a strange gift, heavy and spray-painted. We still have it, and I've contemplated from time to time what it means (being a person who contemplates the meaning of the unexpected and unusual in life - see my posts about double-yolked eggs...oh, and there were several more double yolked eggs one morning last week - we're still wondering about the meaning of this...).

The "original" golden spike was driven by Leland Stanford at the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, a commemoration of the union of the two major railroads in the U.S. at the time. I like that - a symbolic spike tying the two railroads together...railroads that go a lot of different directions but are ultimately united and work together for the same purposes and goals. And that's what Mango and I are - two people working on various separate things in life but ultimately united together in purpose, in goals, in meaning. And there we were about to have our first baby, half of my DNA bound to half of his DNA to create something completely new and different, a golden spike, if you will, tying us together, not just in purpose and spirit but in the real physical world. It isn't that we weren't bound together before, but a baby is a tangible, physical bond...not evidence of our bond, but an actual real life bond - part of me and part of him.

I just have to sit with that for a while.

Then I think of all the things that railroads mean. My grandfather worked for Burlington Northern for his entire work career. Perhaps that's why I find some fascination with railroads, though he never spoke with me about his work. Or, perhaps, it's because I grew up with the movie Stand By Me, and there was something so captivating about following a railroad track. Railroad tracks are on a mission to somewhere and they slice through so much of life along the way. Like my life. And Mango's life. And our children. Yet the whole thing is tied together by these spikes, grounded, stable, connected to the solid terra firma and to every other track.

And it was on the old railroad bridge over Lake Calhoun where Mango first told me that I was beautiful. This was before we were a couple. And I didn't know what to say. There I was on those old tracks, not even knowing which direction my life was going or what to say about it. I like the way that old railroad tracks sit in the ground and the grass and flowers grow up around them, and they seem almost (but not quite) like part of the natural world all over again. They remind me of the past, of the people who came before me and the things that make me who I am today. And I can still follow those old tracks to somewhere...and sometimes they meet up with some new tracks, like the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis, like the way layers of my life meet up and are sort of the same but altogether different...all tied together by those heavy chunks of metal. Heavy metal. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010


This post is part of the Creativity Boot Camp, Day 3

boot camp

I've always said that healing is a spiral upwards. You keep climbing up, but the issues do come back around again. I wasn't the first person to say that. Those are just words I clung to when I was most looking for some thoughts on healing in my own life. I don't know who said them first. I've been repeating them ever since.

You cannot expect healing to be all done after your first go-round of the spiral. The first go-round is just the first layer...typically the one where you finally admit that you have a wound than needs healing and you're ready to finally face it. After that, there are many, many more layers stacked up in the a slinky.

Hope is when you realize that the spiral is always going up. Each time you hit the same place on the loop, you're up another layer. You can't jump over that place on the loop because then the slinky and all its layers would fall apart. But, if you push through, you'll get to the other side...and be a little more healed because of it.

I'm not sure if the layers ever end, or if the slinky goes on for eternity...or, at least, until we die and meet Jesus and have our wounds healed by the Great Healer. In the meantime, each go-round of the spiral is its own new fresh layer...and also somewhat like the last go-round, like the seasons that are different every year but also somewhat the same. Each layer stacks up on the other, colorful slides of life, both the same and different each time. If you looked down through them you'd see who you once were and who you have become, all stacked one over the other...

...layer upon layer of the healing spiral carrying you ever upward.

Friday, June 11, 2010


This post is part of the Creativity Boot Camp, Day 2

boot camp


What is it about a picnic that inspires us so? Is it like coloring outside the lines? Breaking the rules a little bit? And why are we humans like that? Why do we work so hard to keep our lives the same, resisting change, creating stability and structure. Then we want to rebel. We want something new and exciting to happen. We want to do something that isn't so ordinary and boring. We want to be distinguished. We want, in fact, the very thing we do not want...change.

So, we have little ways of breaking up the sameness. We have picnics. Oh, the joy of eating outside on a summer day, spitting watermelon seeds in the grass, not worrying about the spilled lemonade or the crumbs all over. We feel free. 

And I've come to the conclusion that these little things feed our spirits. Our deviations from security and sameness wake us up a little. We delight in taking off on a road trip, eating under the open sky, stopping wherever we wish. It brings us freshness, like the smell of ripe tomatoes still on the vine, pungent and new. 

We return, though, always we return (or wish to return), to our place of security, the taste of freshness and freedom keeps our secure places from growing stale. The picnic blanket tucked away reminds us that we're still free, even as we continue to walk the daily-daily of life.


I have been longing to join the Creativity Boot Camp along with some other wonderful women bloggers (whom I discovered through the Momalom gig), but the first word prompt on Day 1 threw me so badly that I had to let it rest for several days. I was planning to remain several days behind the rest of the camp anyway, as Boot Camp began in the days prior to my oldest flying out of country, and I needed to spend time with her. Anyway...the first day's prompt was the word, "Ivory," and I haven't been able to finish the piece of writing.

Here it is in its that I can move on, and let it sit while I continue with the boot camp prompts.

Ivory makes me think of elephant tusks and piano keys and the book about the tooth fairy that I used to read to Mane when she first started losing teeth. It also makes me think of wedding dresses, of the more muted and elegant color of ivory in contrast to the stark white of...well...white. And then there's the stigma that off-white is for the non-virgin bride. And then my thoughts spiral away like elephant tusks thinking of the damage done in the name of female virginity.

I finished a novel about a week ago called Breath, Eyes, Memory about a Haitian girl who comes to live with her mother in the U.S. at the age of 12 and her experience with the practice of mothers "testing" their daughters to check the status of their virginity until they marry. This is to insure that the family name will not be dishonored by a woman turning out to not be a virgin on her wedding night. This, of course, raises myriads of questions for me. Among them: What kind of husband parades a bloody sheet through the streets after his wedding night? Should he really be proud of himself for that? 

And then I think of the opposite of the ivory wedding dress...the ivory tower: the elite untouchables, those who are too clean and pure to touch the rest of the world. Strangely, I feel that both the obsession with virginity and the cloistered elitism are part of the religiosity of conservative Christianity...or, perhaps, it isn't Christianity, but just religiosity, which seems to fall so readily into legalism. I'm not talking politics. I'm talking about graceless religion...the kind of religion that looks down its nose at people but refuses to get dirty in the trenches doing the real work. Hypocrisy. Claiming to love but refusing to love anyone who is lost, or wounded, or misled.

And I keep picturing the curve of the elephant tusk, the fine, easy graceful curve...the dangerous curve...both sides of the same coin. 

That's really all. Spiraling thoughts, eh?

boot camp

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Questions from Mane

Today Mane asked me, "Have you ever noticed that you can't lift something up that you're sitting on? ...I mean, did someone discover that sometime?"

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Of daisies, streamers, balloon, and bouquets...

This is what was left of my Mother's Day flowers two weeks after Mother's Day. My husband and my beautiful children brought me a bouquet of roses and lilies and daisies and greens. After the roses and lilies started to droop, I took them out and kept the daisies and greens. Today, a single daisy still remains in a bud vase on my counter. ...I like to draw out the bouquet as long as I can, cutting stems, replacing water, and picking out the drooping blooms until it's time to let it all go. I think we do holidays like that, and birthdays, too, here at The Midnight Cafe. The streamers from Niteo's surprise birthday party over a week ago still grace the doorways, just as the balloons from Mane's party hung from the trees in the yard until they wrinkled up and had to be cut down. And Vespera's wedding bouquet still hangs from the hook in the kitchen ceiling. We honor the person(s), whose day it was, as we pass by the bits of their celebration day after day.

I heard once that your birthday isn't over until you receive the last card. I like that. We like to draw things out, milk them dry to the very last drop, and then we can be ready to release them...because the memory will be ours, even when the balloons have wrinkled, and the streamers have fallen, and the daisies have, at last, faded. 

I read a poem yesterday by Will Allen Dromgoole called Fragments From the Years, and the last line sticks with me. In speaking of memories, he says, 

"And sometimes, when life seems to hard, we give them greeting, 
And know that memory is a possession, too."  

I think of the way we hold onto the last vestiges of bouquets and decorations as out way rehearsing our memories before we tuck them away.