Everything is Hungry

Everything is hungry. These are words that have moved into my awareness for weeks now. In the deep of one of the snowiest winters ever, I have had these words made visible by a rabbit that lives under our deck. As the winter dragged on and the available food became more scarce, the rabbit hopped out of hiding to search for something to sate its hunger. It ate all available weeds and grasses that still peeked out from the snow. And when that was buried it started to munch on our Winged Euonymus (Burning Bush) where the drifts of snow had created a ladder for tiny rabbit feet. After my husband added chicken wire to stop this buffet, the rabbit was on its own. That is about the time I started putting left over vegetables outside the deck door and stuck carrots out of the snow. Everything is hungry and, while I know I have perhaps created a pattern from which there is no return, I could not stand the idea of this sweet, vulnerable being going hungry. The plus was watching a rabbit eat a carrot just like in cartoons.

Words about how everything is hungry was reinforced when, during the snowiest times, we traveled to the desert of California to be stunned by the beauty of what was called a Super Bloom. Hungry…or more aptly thirsty…these dry, desert places had seen more rain than usual allowing the desert plants to bloom with colors that took the breath away. Purples, yellows, oranges, hot pinks, reds, all shot forth from brown and dusty ground. The landscape became a palette of color filling both eye and spirit, hungry for release from the monochromatic canvas of snow and ice. The plants of the desert had been fed and in turn fed those ready to be opened to the ways Creation stands ready to lift the human spirit. Always…always.

Everything is hungry. These words have been a mantra through these days the Christian Household call Lent. In these last breaths of this season that leads toward Easter, I have reflected on the idea that hunger is so much what this journey is about. Hunger for a way to be connected to the Sacred. Hunger for knowing what it means to live a faithful life, an authentic life. Hunger for seeing justice come in all the many forms and situations, in all the people’s lives whose hungers are of both body, mind and spirit. Hunger for a spirit of compassion that enfolds the whole of Creation. Hunger for walking in the steps that lead to hope and not despair, truth and not deception, life and not death.

The rabbit made it through the winter and is now eating the dead leaves that had been smoldering beneath the snow. The Burning Bush was not so lucky and did not survive. Once the ground is thawed enough it will need to be pulled out and something else planted in its place. The color and joy it brought to us will live on only in memory. Tulips and crocuses are pushing up through the brown ugliness in our yard and soon will flash color as thoughts of snow recede and will be forgotten. It might, at times, remind us of the color of the desert.

The gift of these weeks and these words has been a reminder of the hunger that walks with each of us. We are aware of all those around our world for whom hunger is not the metaphor of which I write here but is felt daily in their very bodies. Hunger comes in many forms both physical and mental and spiritual. It is visible and invisible, known and unknown. And so I pledge to be gentle with all I encounter this day and every day as I cannot always see the hunger of another any more than they see mine. 

But of this I am sure…everything is hungry.

Ashes & Dirt

Feeling the moist dirt
look for the sun
with holy eyes
take a deep breath
and remember:
You belong here.

Looking at the altar draped in purple cloth and candlelight, I noticed two bowls, both of earthen tones. It was Ash Wednesday so one likely would hold the ashes that would be used to trace a cross of two intersecting lines on our foreheads. What was in the other? Because I have placed  ashes on many foreheads over time, I know for a fact that you need very little to create this mark that begins the journey of Lent. It would be rare to need another such large container.

As the person who was to offer reflection on both scripture and intention for this season came to speak, I noticed her shirt, more like a smock, was covered with planets and constellations. I smiled. This Sister of St. Joseph had a message to give and she planned to illustrate it not only with words but with her very clothing. After pointing to the small bowl that held the ashes she moved toward the larger one and allowed her fingers to sift dirt in a tiny stream through the air and back into the bowl. She spoke of this dirt as holding the bones of dinosaurs, plants, minerals, stardust and even other humans who have gone before. She lifted a small amount of the dirt once again to allow the enormity of that to sink in. “From dust we have come and to dust we will return.” This season which can seem sometimes dour and dreary begins with these words…words we don’t much like to think about. 

“These days of Lent are a call to life.” she said. The life that comes from all the ways we are beings of earth, soil, dirt, that place that brings life with the cycling of winter to spring. It was not your usual Ash Wednesday message. I can imagine it is not the message she most likely heard over her years in the church. But as she reminded us of this call to life that guides us during these days, she reached just a little further into the soil and pulled up a living, green shoot of a plant. It was the work of an excellent teacher and smiles broke out…even on Ash Wednesday. Her words helped us remember who we are and why we are here…creatures born of Earth and called to live life fully, wholly, holy.

With only one week of Lent under our belts, the days of winter are changing and promising a spring that will surprise us with green and color buried beneath snow that seems to have been here forever. But the Sun is high and strong and has plans for executing its power on even the tallest of snow drifts. The call toward life cannot be contained. It is good to be reminded. By the presence of soil, dirt, dust, ashes. From which we came…and to which we will one day return. 

In the meantime, it is about life. 

Little Things

“It is one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

March is a month that holds a double edged sword. Winter…particularly this winter…still holds us in its grip. And the promise of spring…increasing light, the cardinal’s song in early morning, buds visible on branches break into the every day. March is a balancing act of months. 

And for those of us who honor some sense of the Christian year, March also ushers in the days of Lent, those weeks when we reflect on wilderness and what walking in the wilderness can teach a person, how it can offer a place of revelation or seed of growth. Wilderness: “ an uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable region; a position of disfavor, especially in a political context.” So goes the definition.

Many I know, myself included, feel as if we have been walking in wilderness for some time now. Our very ordinary days are threaded through with the experience of wilderness. Values and norms we held as sacred have been abandoned or dismantled. Things like kindness, generosity, inclusion, compassion, justice, and truth telling seem to have fallen into the dark crevices of rocky landscapes. Rising up from behind hills have been words and acts of racism, cruelty, division, exclusion and sheer mean-spiritedness. Desert places cry out for nourishment, something to tip the scales. Those on the margins long to be seen and heard. Those of us who stand in privilege seem often helpless to turn the tides. From so many places around our country and our world this is the wilderness made visible.

And in the church I have loved for so long another wilderness has engulfed those who seek to be the Face of God in our time. Those who call themselves United Methodists have chosen to cast some in our community into wilderness by the act of exclusion. And in doing so, we are all turned out into the wilderness of our making to decide, as Jesus was in his wilderness journey, who and what we will worship. Perhaps these six weeks of Lent will lead us to a truer understanding of what this experience of wilderness really offers. How will we find ourselves come Easter morning? How will be able to proclaim resurrection in times such as these?

As for me, these March days, these Lenten days have me remembering the words I read on the first day of the month, March 1st, St. David’s Day. This patron saint of Wales whose life and faith are celebrated in this small country of my ancestors was also surrounded by his own experiences of wilderness as he sought to reflect the Spirit in his time. And yet one of the quotes most often attributed to him is: “ Be joyful. Keep your faith. Do the little things.”

Do the little things. When I read those words again on March 1st, something shifted in my chest, always a good sign of opening to what is deepest within. The wilderness can seem so overwhelming, so impossible to walk as a mere human when seen and experienced in its fullness. And yet the truth that every good and important journey begins with one step…one little thing…continues to unfold as wisdom. 

And so that will become my practice this Lent. I will seek to do the little things. Notice the little things. Praise the little things. Celebrate the little things. Take hope in the little things. See and work for justice in the little things. Encourage the little things. As March turns to April, I will continue one day, one step at a time…in the wilderness…holding onto the little things. Just as the enormous mounds of snow outside our doors began with one tiny flake, perhaps these little things will grow into something more than I could have imagined. 



It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are.
E. E. Cummings

Each and everyone of us loves a good story about heroes and heroines. Our most central guiding stories are often about those who have shown courage in the face of all kinds of situations. Hearing how another has overcome fear, unimaginable odds, terrible circumstances gives each of us renewed spirit and fills us with the breath of inspiration. I have been thinking of courage…what it is…what it means…how to attain it…over the last days. It was not any particular, Hollywood vision that caused this mulling over the act of courage. Instead it was a scene I encountered last week while walking across the Ford Parkway Bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul. I stopped to look over the edge of the bridge at the presence of the river and the ice formations moving and changing shape right before my eyes and then I noticed this…

I stepped closer to the bridge railing and allowed my eyes to focus on the shape of…could it be?…footprints etched in the floating ice. They took my breath away! Who had done this? Since I walk along the Mississippi River with regularity, I know that there has not been many times this warm winter when the ice was solid across. How had this person maneuvered these shifting ice floes? I felt my stomach lurch at the idea of it, looking from the height where I was suspended, I felt my legs go a little weak. Since the main definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one” I knew that whoever had the ability to do this river walking was filled with more courage than I could ever muster. At this point some might also be calling this behavior other words and yet…

What brings any of us to acts of courage? Recently I have been spending some time with second graders who struggle with reading. I am humbled by the courage they bring, week after week, as they try to make sense out of black slashes on white pages. Watching their little brows furrow and their minds search, it is some inner courage…and a large dose of hoping to please an adult…that keeps them coming back to the page. I think of all the students who exhibit such courage to face odds that frighten them to become who they truly are, as E.E. Cummings proposes.

It does take courage to become who we truly are, to reach for our deepest potential. Author and amazing person Brene Brown reminds us that: “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’” While over time we have moved the definition to be more about heroics, originally it meant to follow the pull of the heart and to live into the truth of self for all to see.

The person who made their footsteps visible on the ice of the mighty Mississippi may not have been having a ‘heart’ experience. But they were walking above rushing, frigid waters that threatened to pull them under. And though you may not be able to tell from these photos, they were also walking upstream. Something those who exhibit courage must always do. They were also exhibiting an enormous sense of trust in their own ability and the strength of the ice to hold them. I can imagine their heart was pumping with an exhilarating force as they made their presence seen in the icy path. Certainly this is one physical reaction to living with courage.

Of course, many of us have been watching the news with tears of relief and joy over the last days as a young girl who seemed lost to the world summoned the courage to escape a situation every parent and grandparent fears, that of having a child taken, kidnapped. The full bodied gratitude of an entire community can be felt in both Wisconsin and Minnesota and, indeed, across the nation. It was the kind of ending that everyone hoped for, prayed for, longed for, tried to imagine. Courage? How can it be called anything else? And fueled and filled with ‘cor’, heart so large and full that even those who have never met her are lifted above the tiny, little details of their ordinary day to remember that there is a depth of spirit within each of us that beats with such power to reach toward the fullness and goodness of what it means to be human. We cannot know the sense of rushing, cold waters of fear that this young one has experienced. It is almost too much to try to imagine. What we can do is think of the heart full of desire and hope and spirit that allowed her to make footprints that led her to freedom and the arms of those who love her.

Courage. Boundless courage.


Big Sky

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
~Maxine Hong Kingston

Many people I know are teetering on the sharp, knife edge between despair and hope. Having just come through a holiday season in which we weigh the balance between darkness and light, we are unsure where the tilt of the scale is leaning. There is the constant barrage of real and created situations of chaos. Words and proclamations are used as weapons against the vulnerable and to lift false truths to the place of repeated fact. People are devalued, ignored, imprisoned for nationality, culture, and the color of their skin. Children are taken from parents and there seems to be no visible process for reuniting them. Our oceans are full of plastic bottles that once held…water. The ice caps are melting, the waters are rising and there are those who refuse to listen to scientists trained and educated in ways that could curb the looming disaster. Is it any wonder there is such a sense of falling into the firm embrace of despair?

I found myself in such a place last week. The gloomy skies and dirty, brown mounds of snow didn’t help to lift my mood. But the day had turned sunny and the temperatures had warmed a bit. Swimming in the stew I had fallen into, I made my way to a meeting and then was given this gift….

Driving around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, my eyes were stunned by the show in the late afternoon sky. I had to pull over and watch it arrive…allowing the wash of the colors shifting and flowing inward and outward as if they had an artist’s brush painting the enormous canvas right before my eyes. I watched as people also stopped their cars…people of all ages…and got out to snap a photo. Some turned the phone on themselves and took a selfie with this background…a gift of memory in what up to then had been an ordinary day sliding toward despair from some mountain of hope where we all long to stand.

As I watched the play of light and color and beauty, I found myself being lifted up. Yes, of course, all the things listed above were still true. And yet. And yet, there is the potential for such unexpected surprise in the middle of a day, in the middle of a week, at the beginning of a new year. Isn’t it possible that someplace at the deepest wisdom of the Universe there exists a creativity that says: “Hey! Look at this! Rise to this!” Isn’t it possible that that same creative spirit lives not only in the flowing, flowering of sky but also in humanity? It is difficult to embrace this call on our creative selves when we are free falling into the lap of despair. So we need wake up calls.

I don’t understand why a sky turns the colors it did last week. I don’t understand the temperature or light or chemicals or energy and their combinations that painted the heavens with this awe inspiring image. Yet I am thankful for not only the breathtaking beauty of it but also for its life line thrown out just in time. Just in time to pull me up toward the hope and creative promise of what might be possible. Just in time to offer the gift of pure, raw joy.

The writer Anne Lamont writes in her newest book: “Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared and yet designed for joy.” Truth. And somehow it seems to me that we have the capacity to mend the brokenness when we come from a place of hope and joy and creativity instead of the pit of despair. And so I give thanks for the wake up call and the renewed commitment. Sometimes it simply takes a really amazing, in-your-face cosmic moment that can happen on an ordinary January day telling you to “snap out of it!” There is beautiful, hopeful, joyful work to be done and so on we go…



Bowing. I do not come from bowing stock. Neither my culture or my faith tradition asks for much bowing. Something within probably resists the humility and vulnerability that bowing requires. And so it seems an odd act to be reflecting on in these darkest of December days. But it is what I have been doing.

It started with attending an Advent evening prayer service at Our Lady of Presentation Chapel offered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet. I arrived early in the beautiful candlelit sanctuary that, for years, has held the prayers of these kind and mighty women of faith who have given their lives to social justice, art and nurturing generations for the future. Finding a space in one of the pews facing the flickering lights near the altar, I settled in to be silent, quiet, at home in the darkened room. One by one people of all ages arrived. Those that captured my attention, however, were the nuns who clearly had a greater comfort level than others in this space. Their traditional habits a thing of the past, these women instead were clothed in jeans and sweatshirts, colorful sweaters and comfortable pants. Some walked with the help of cane or walker but most moved confidently into the room. And then they bowed. Toward the candles lining the altar. Toward the altar itself. Toward the barely visible crucifix at the front of the sanctuary. One or two forgot something and had to leave their seats, bowing before leaving. and bowing again upon their return.

I found myself wondering what these bowing women thought about when they bent knee or waist and head. I wondered if at this point of their lives they did this so automatically that no thought flew through their heads, only an inner impulse to bow. This ritual action had likely defined their days in ways that are completely foreign to me. And yet I was drawn to it, wanted some of whatever they had for myself.

The three letters of this tiny word create many definitions: bow…to bend the head, body, or knee in reverence, submission, or shame; to incline the head or body in salutation or assent; to cease from competition or resistance; to express by bending the head, body, or knee. And these are just the verbs. A small word with powerful meanings.

Reverence. Submission. Shame. Salutation. Assent. I have thought of what it is that might cause me to follow the example of the sisters and to begin a bowing life. And then I noticed the Sun streaming through my window on a cold, winter day. I bow to its beams warming the floorboards and my bare feet. I picked up the book I had been reading and I bowed to the author and all the authors whose words challenge, inspire, entertain and persuade. I bow to the children learning to read as they struggle with sounds and understanding and the desire to please the adults around them. I bow to artists whose eye for color and form grace my walls and bring me such joy. I bow to the musicians whose work wafts from speaker and concert hall, from sanctuary and street corner providing a respite of sound and sentiment. All these and so much more bring me to a place of reverence and call for bowing.

I found that once you begin to bow you don’t know where to stop. I bow to the mothers who cradle children everywhere but especially those who hold tightly to the children they have carried as they move toward the borders of our country in the hope of a better life. I bow to the fathers who have walked away from pride and purpose to bring children and family through danger hoping to offer a home where those they love can be more than they ever dreamed. I bow to the workers, the helpers, the pray-ers who hand out clothes and meals and try to make connections and something civil out of situations most of us could not imagine. This bowing is full of reverence and laced with shame. 

All around the world there are caregivers standing at bedsides and in nursing homes and hospitals, holding hands, dispensing medicine, serving meals, offering smiles and the human touch. I bow to you. I bow to the teachers and the servers, the cooks and the bakers, to the sales clerks and the workers on factory lines whose work is used by most of us and whose names are never known. I bow to those who clean…our houses, our office buildings, our streets. I bow to the ones who know only loneliness at this time of year advertised to house cheer and human connection. I bow to the college students who are making sense of their lives and might be afraid to let their true heart be seen. I bow to all those who have too little and those who have too much and do not know how to share.

You see. Once you start bowing it becomes never ending. Maybe the nuns know that. Certainly the Sufi poet and wise one Rumi knew it. “If God said, ‘Rumi pay homage to everything that has helped you enter my arms,’ there would not be one experience of my life, not one thought, not one feeling, nor any act, I would not bow to.”

So I guess I have chosen to become one who bows. Perhaps it will start out only in my mind but who knows what form it will take as the practice unfolds? If you, too, are interested in the bowing life, please join me.

Rhythms for Dancing Light

We are creatures driven by rhythms. The rhythm of minutes, hours, days, years. We are held in a rhythm of seasons. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Any given day has us held by the rhythm of sunrise and moonrise. Given our home on the planet those seasons and the play of light and darkness varies but is always present. Sometimes we are more aware of these rhythms than at other times. Traveling, as I did in the past weeks, across the northern cusp of our nation and into the Pacific Northwest, I was always surprised at how early darkness arrived and how long it lingered in the morning. 

For those of us who share in the experience of the Christian calendar, the rhythm of the season of Advent has arrived. These days that lead up to the celebration of Christmas are, I have to admit, my favorite season. To hold in sacred grasp the anticipation, the waiting, the watching for a Light that will bring yet another rhythm to the world carries a remembering that we are creatures who have always been cradled between darkness and what has power to overcome the shadows. Shadows which are part of Creation and shadows which we ourselves create.

On Sunday morning, the first of the Advent season, I sat in worship looking at a banner that became icon for me. Not an icon of the computer world but one of the religious world meant to foster devotion and connection with the Sacred. Usually these paintings are created on wood and feature a face of Jesus or another holy figure. This image that held my gaze off and on during the service was not of a human but of colors of blue, purple and black painted on fabric interrupted with flashes of shining drops of light. Amidst word and music both lovely and engaging, what offered itself to me as an invitation into Advent was this banner created by the people of the community. Over the last few days I have continued to be visited by this image. I have thought about how the streaks of white light were actually a part of the darkness, how they danced within the Advent colors of blue and purple, how they created more of a wholeness rather than the opposites so often portrayed when talking about light and darkness.

Later in the evening I sat with some people who lamented the safety and goodness of their lives while children and families suffer at the southern borders of our country. We felt held in the shadows of our privilege. We spoke of the difficulty in knowing how to celebrate and mark what is meant to be a time of family, of faith, of joy. We shared in our feelings of powerlessness and despair. And we also spoke of the beauty of music we had heard in the last week, the gifts of friendship and hope for a future where justice will indeed roll down like an everflowing stream and the gift of that longing to lift our spirits. 

As we shared in all of this, my mind traveled back to that image…blues and purples and blacks woven through with flashes of light. Perhaps the real wisdom in this vision of Advent is that the light is always present. Always. Dancing throughout. While we may want a bright light to stamp out all the shadows in a flashy Vegas way, the reality is that this dance of light and darkness is the place of our living and where we find the strength to continue to help bring light to the world.

In her book Night Visions, Jan L. Richardson offers these words: “Move over the face of my deep, my darkness, my endless restless chaos, and create, O God: trouble me, comfort me, stir me up, and calm me, but do not cease to breathe your Spirit into my wakening soul.”

May these dark days of the Advent season find us troubled, comforted, restless, always watching for the flashes of light that call us to be bearers of what might heal our world…

**Great gratitude to the people of Macalester Plymouth Church in St. Paul for this amazing image.

To Gaze in Wonder

I believe that landscape shapes us and informs how we see and experience the world. I believe this because I know it in my bones. There are certain landscapes that stir up something within me that calls to me from an ancient place etched there by the ancestors who birthed me and placed me upright in human form. Rolling green hills, sharp, jagged stones, water teeming with mystery, danger and refreshment, desolate while beautiful, all these speak to the soul of my emergence from lands far off yet deep within. These landscapes make up the story that lives within my DNA and informs how I see the world and my place in it.

The past two weeks I have been traveling through landscapes unfamiliar as we made a road trip to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with our two sons. Staring out the window as Minnesota prairie bled into North Dakota farmland and oil fields boasting rocky formations that were often Moon-like, led me to reflect on the gifts and challenges of being human shaped by the soil on which we were planted. Gazing out at the snow-capped cliffs and many hued rocks of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I began to imagine the mindset of all those who have known these views on a daily basis. How has seeing these strange and beautiful formations shaped their worldview? How does the coming together of rock and river and the common sight of so many forms of wildlife affect a person’s understanding of the world and their place in it?

As we moved into the mountains of Montana and Idaho, I wondered if the people there forget to see, really see, the magnificence all around them. Trees towered as tall as skyscrapers and hugged the ever undulating mounds of earth that reached toward heaven. Is it any wonder people who have tried to explain and name God have used mountains as a measuring stick, a metaphor? Do the people who live there find the mountains a comfort in their surrounding presence or do these enormous mounds simply begin to represent something to be conquered and moved past? I wondered. For this person simply passing through, I just know the experience as one of awe. Pure awe. I wanted to open my arms Maria Von Trapp style and turn in circles breathing them in.

And then there was the sky. The sky kept painting pictures that continued to take away that breath, filling me instead with a deep solitude and humility for being lucky…and blessed…and privileged enough to see the colors and the clouds shapeshift in the closing days of November. Does such a sky cause most people to quiet mind and heart in the presence of such an unimaginable sight? I hope so.

Over the last week, I have been rereading some of Irish poet John O’Donohue’s words so it was only natural that I kept thinking of his wisdom while clicking off the miles on this road trip. “The earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze.” Yes, indeed. The various vistas my eyes beheld were each unique and had a beauty all their own. And each was a threshold for opening myself to the diversity of landscape that welcomed my gaze…and invited me to wonder.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

Places That Shape Us

If you live long enough, some of the places that have been important to you, those buildings that have helped shape you, are remodeled, changed in ways you don’t approve of, or are even destroyed. Several years ago now I arrived in my hometown to not only be impressed by the new high school and athletic stadium that had been built but to also see that the high school I and my parents had attended had been leveled…knocked to the ground…and only an empty hill stood where so many of my formative days had been spent. When I visit these days I always have to go to where the high school once stood. I look at the still empty hillside and try to remember the red brick building, the stairs where I waited for friends and the doors to the auditorium where I exited on my way from graduation to an entrance into what I believed would be an exciting, adventurous future. The halls and classrooms that sowed that desire for my dreams, some of which have been fulfilled, only exist now in a shadowy memory. The walls that housed the seeds of the dreams of so many, first loves, questions, challenges, discoveries, are no more.

As humans we create structures for all our endeavors. Houses. Schools. Libraries. Churches. Stadiums. Shops. The dwellings in which we find shelter from the weather, where we settle in to be with other people, where we find sanctuary and safety, where we move from those who once lived in caves to those who take command of their environment and put down roots reflect that we were here, alive. The buildings we have known in our lives help us tell our story and the story of those with whom we have made and lived our lives.

The power of buildings moved front and center for me this week. The seminary where I received my education has sold its buildings, including its beautiful chapel, and will be moving to a new home in what is hoped to be a more central, convenient location for its future. This past week I attended a service of gratitude for how the structure served and nurtured so many. I thought back to the idealistic and wide-eyed way I entered that building for the first time. My questions were large and deep and it was a place that welcomed them and me, allowing me to live into a future I was still imagining, discovering. The classrooms and hallways were hotbeds of theological conversation and intellectual insight. And the chapel, built after I had graduated, became a place of artistic beauty and experimenting creatively with how worship can be expressed. And it has the most amazing acoustics!

But like all buildings and the people that inhabit them change comes to live in the midst of what had once been familiar and secure. That change necessitates remodeling, renovating or even pulling up stakes and moving. This service of gratitude allowed those present to say thank you to the people and the Spirit that gave birth to the walls and floors and the dreams and hopes that had found a home there. And it allowed for saying it is time to embrace the change that is woven with both loss and possibility as the building is handed over to another school with younger people and their own dreams with which to bathe the space.

As I sat in this beautiful chapel, listening to the music, hearing words well chosen and well spoken, I noticed that outside the window workers were already lifting tiles for a new roof, making the place safe and warm for the next tenants. I smiled at the metaphor of preparation even as we were doing the leave taking. It is probably always this way but perhaps not always so visible.

 Naomi Shihab Nye writes in her poem “Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change”:

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Change in our lives and in the buildings that house our lives is inevitable though most often painful. And yet most of us would not choose to live lives like train tracks…no curves, no breaks, no growth. And we would not choose that for the people we love or the dwellings that house us.

My childhood home went on the real estate market a few months ago. The walls within which I grew and was launched will hopefully soon be a nest for a new family. Change…curves…breaking…growth…comes to us all. Within the walls of my first home new dreams will be formed and hopes will be given wing. It is called life and it is always moving, changing, remodeling, reforming into a future that is unsure and, hopefully, blessed.


It may be difficult to remember but the first several days of October were particularly gloomy. Skies were gray. The Sun was far from us most of the hours of most of the days. Many people, myself included, were starting to fray at the edges from such a quick dive into dreariness with the fresh scent of summer still hanging on to our skin, our psyches, our spirits. In my particular situation I was also still walking around with the experience of several weeks under a brilliant Mediterranean sky so the weather seemed very harsh to me. Too many clouds. Too soon. Too winter-like for the what can be a glorious autumn month.

Trying not to let the gray-cast skies get me down, I headed for a long walk along the Mississippi River…always a healing activity for me. Clothed in hat and coat more suited for late November, I kicked the fallen leaves and watched more of their kind dance to their final resting place on sidewalk and boulevard. As my eyes wandered up I was astonished to see that, while the sky, the very day was incredibly dreary, the trees were shining forth amazing color into the bland background. Noticing the brilliant yellows, the bright oranges and the just-appearing reds, I felt my own spirit lift in the presence of such hues. I began to reflect on all the ways Creation can dazzle us, can draw us out of the doldrums if we keep our gaze sharp and ready to be surprised.

I thought of all the times I am pulled down by not only the gray skies but also by words that lack color, that are life-deadening. There is enough of that these days to keep us in a constant state of funk. And I have found that it is often the gifts of Creation that wakes me up. Wakes me up to possibility. Wakes me up to beauty. Wakes me up to all I am offered without any effort on my part. Wakes me up to what is real and lasting and enduring. 

The painter and bold interpreter of the landscape that held her, Georgia O’Keefe, once said: “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way – things that I had no words for.” The gift of color can be such a spirit-lifter which is what happened for me as I began to take in the palette of trees defying the backdrop of those early October days. By the time I found my car once again, I was in a different place than when I started that early morning walk. I had been awakened to yellow, gold, orange, red, hot pink and my breath was deeper and my face reflected light and a rosier outlook on the day and the world.

On Sunday we turned our clocks back and now the darkness of November seems to have descended. I heard yesterday that November is the ‘darkest’ month. I don’t know about that but this week promises to be pretty dreary, rainy, with even threats of the ‘s’ word. My antidote? Pull out the most colorful clothes you own…a brilliant scarf, a bright sweater, those crazy red pants you keep pushing to the bottom of the drawer and wear them proudly. Paint…color…bring flowers into the house…eat salads and soups full of colorful vegetables. Spend time looking at the nearly impossible shades of an apple. Allow the color to carry you through the dismal days, the times when words are too thick or harsh. Bask in the beauty of color. It may be just what is needed for the dreariness of both sky and spirit.