Friday, January 30, 2009


One of my long time friends online has a great blog that's been running for awhile now. I featured it when it started but it's really taken off. Check out Blogtations. The creator features great lines from various blogs each week. I made the cut this week. :) You'll see mine (second one down).

She's got some good ones!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Zen of Shoveling Snow

By about 5:00 p.m. yesterday, it dawned on me (ha! maybe it sunset-ed on me) that daylight was fading and the snow had not magically disappeared from the driveway. My car stood rooted to the icy ground, buried in snow and ice. The drive looked particularly long. So, I hoisted a shovel to my shoulder and got to work, digging out the car and clearing the cement of the 10 inches of accumulation. And I didn't mind. I like shoveling. It's a bit like mowing the lawn or ironing. You see instant progress, you get into a "zone" where each "row" feels like a micro-achievement in the larger project of clearing the whole. In a season where my internal world is at loose ends, where shoes rarely get put away, where days bleed into each other without much definition and no clarity about tomorrow, shoveling snow brought a profound sense of accomplishment.

While I shoveled, I plugged in my headphones... which had the annoying habit of popping out of my ears as my arms or the shovel handle snagged the cord each time I shifted my body. It became quite the antagonistic relationship - me and my white cord vying for control: that slippery snake with the earbuds marked R and L to tell you which ear they must go in, which I can't read without my reading glasses! I couldn't allow the music to stop (shoveling routine would lose rhythm) yet I couldn't seem to keep the earbuds happy enough to stay put. I tried hanging the cord off my back (but the twisting motions dislodged them again). I tried stringing them through my coat, putting the iPod in my back pocket instead of front. The whole struggle became epic, including a few choice words I launched audibly at Steve Jobs for not caring about me in particular, stranded here in Ohio in the knee-deep snow! (Uh, yeah, I got carried away.)

Eventually, I yielded to the halting success, enjoying the music while the buds stayed plugged in and stopping to adjust them as they subtly shifted. I focused on lyrics. I let Oasis blare guitars. They soothed and spoke for and to me. And weirdly enough, the mix began with my first scoop of snow (starting with song one "Wonderwall") and literally ended with the last scrape off the frozen windshield of my car as "Champagne Supernova" erupted and fizzled at the end.

The push, lift, hurl and retread habits of shoveling got all my body parts working. The music accompanied my loud (seemingly acapella) singing (I have a habit of belting out tunes while mowing too, but at least the mowers drown me out). I didn't care. The fading light made the icicles glitter. I even licked a few of them on a low hanging branch. The snow moved easily with a push and made a nice long row of mounds. I like to keep my edges crisp, so I would work a lane and then push the little scattered snowballs up the edges on a second pass.

As the moments went by, I felt an increasing sense of well-being. Words spoke to me:

And all the roads we have to walk along are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

Maybe I will never be
All the things that I want to be
But now is not the time to cry
Now's the time to find out why

But the little things they make me so happy
All I want to do is live by the sea
Little things they make me so happy
But it's good it's good it's good to be free

I can feel the warning signs running around my mind
And when I leave this island I'll book myself into a soul asylum
Cos I can feel the warning signs running around my mind

But all the things that you've seen
Will slowly fade away

Gonna write a song so she can see
Give her all the love she gives to me
Talk of better days that have yet to come
Never felt this love from anyone

Cos all of the stars are fading away
Just try not to worry you'll see them some day
Take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

The wheels of your life
Have slowly fallen off
Little by little
And because it was the last song:
Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky...
Driveway looks great. I felt free of whatever oppression had settled on me in our blue box of a house.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Thaw (Or: The Danger of Happiness)

The unbearably cold and dry winter is about to dump welcome quantities of snow onto Cincinnati. We expect 5-8 inches of pile up. I shoveled our long sloping drive and shook ice melt out of a bag on the tire tracks hoping to stave off a much bigger task tomorrow. We plan to drink tea next to a toasty fire while watching snowflakes swirl past our windows.

Yet the title of this post is "The Thaw" and really has nothing to do with snow or storms. My life has been frozen for the last two months. Apart from Obama's big win (and can't we just admit that it's delicious to hear that man every day behind a microphone?), my personal life has been virtually impossible to write about. Now that we're a bit into January, the paralysis of the last eight weeks has eased and I feel ready to resume some kind of daily practice (i.e. writing) again.

A long time ago in a far away land (iow, last April on the Santa Cruz coast), I smoked a cigarette. I couldn't have known then that that confounding-of-self act would launch an internal revolution. Since April, everything has changed. My insides are rearranged and I can't go back to the way it used to be, you know, back when I was happy. I've believed in my happiness for a very long time. I could prove it! I had evidence, daily rituals and corroborating testimonies.

But one day, I felt happy. And that changed everything. I mean, I got knocked off my feet by happiness - the real kind. It's really strange when that happens. Unexpected. (Jane Kenyon has a fabulous poem by that name that expresses it perfectly.) I couldn't go back to merely believing in happiness once I'd felt it. The trouble was, happiness exposed the sham, the falseness, the mixed up mess that had been my life. Truth is, I spent a good long while tolerating mistreatment and papering over it, carefully editing out pain... and calling that life, happy.

I started counseling in April, after that trip to California where my soul had gasped for air and discovered the power of oxygen. I told my sister in a Facebook chat the other day: If you don't want to change your life, don't go to counseling. It's a snowball running downhill. Once you admit that your life isn't working, you have to face it and do something about it. I mean, you are paying all that money and telling all that truth. Dangerous combination for the status quo!

Sure, there have been days in these last nine months when I wanted to go back to the time when I lived an oblivious, seemingly happy life... except now that I know that it wasn't, I can't find the way back.

You can't smoke a cigarette on the beach, enjoy it, and return to the old life. That's what I know now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Money quote

[O]ur security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
May it be so. Thank you President Obama for putting it before us - an opportunity to both live our ideals while defending our freedom.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From Slave House to White House

Today the White House, built by slaves, will be inhabited by a man of African descent and his wife, descendant of slaves: leaders of the free world. That journey, that struggle has spanned more than three centuries. It's included the deaths and back-breaking heartache and oppression of hundreds of thousands of people. The cycle of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, economic, sexual) was played out in our country with institutional justification and legal support!

To achieve that oppression, the slaves had to give up their language, their diet, their very names. Remember "Roots" when Kunta Kinte is beaten until he yields to his master's name for him, replacing his African heritage? Slaves were systematically stripped of the cultural touchstones and personal identities that had they been retained, would have made it nearly impossible to keep that population enslaved for so long. Once Lincoln's Union won the Civil War (a war that shredded the relational fibers of the nation), the former slaves became the second-class citizens, attempting to map out a new existence, finding new names, all within the confines of institutional and relational racism that would go on in Jim Crow, in segregation, in second-class status.

To overcome that tragic history, someone had to say: enough! And that someone had to grab the hand of another fellow-sufferer and say, "Follow me to freedom" or "Come with me to a march" or "Don't sit at the back of the bus" or "Yes I can get an education and I'm supposed to be in this classroom." The risks and costs were deemed worth it because the struggle to be free, to be autonomous, to know that you could choose for yourself how your life would be, became the heart cry of every oppressed person, eventually.

How that word reverberated at the Democratic National Convention this summer: Enough! A rallying cry we won't forget.

The whole world admires the results/fruit of that struggle for equality and freedom. We've immortalized the fallen heroes. We are the generation that gets to see King's dream fulfilled. What a privilege. Our part so small - electing a man to office, voting, making a few phone calls, overcoming our own prejudices to do it.

But here we are.

And as my pastor shared in November, is it is a part of the divine comedy that 390 years later (since that first slave ship crossed the Atlantic), 40 years after MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, that the first African-American president is NOT a descendant of slaves, but is a natural born African and American who has his own African name!

Barack Hussein Obama... Full circle. For African Americans, he symbolizes a reclaiming of much more than dignity in America. Obama also brings that African connection into an international focus and restores that identity to all who have lost theirs.

It's a moment and yes, it's historic. We don't get to live in those very often. Clearly, we're lucky. And blessed. Have a glorious day.