pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: September, 2007

the page most splattered

of all the pages, of all the books that line the walls of this old house, page 82 in one of them is the one that looks like jackson pollock left his calling card.

it’s so splattered, it needs a wash-n-rinse, but the binding, i am thinking, might protest. might fall apart, instead of only being wobbly.

looks like there’s a big fat splat of bloody lamb juice that landed just last night, a cooking asteroid that crashed into the page. don’t tell the county health department but i’m pretty sure the crusted-over little bit of once-mushy brown-rice-and-broth is now, um, 17 years old. i even think there’s a fleck of dried-on apple skin.

ykkh, you’re thinking, that page is gross. downright revolting, you might even whisper to the neighbors.

in fact, it’s most delicious. and all the splatters attest to that. i do believe that you can rank the zeitgeist of a dish by the number of splatters on the pages, tucked away there on your bookshelves.

page 82 is the one that as a cooking coalition we love the best. we return to more than any other.

and the darn thing there is we do so usually only once a year. see, me and the man i married we do not do a lot of rhumbas in the kitchen. not together anyway. oh, sure we slather bagels. he scrambles eggs sometimes. on winter afternoons, he goes gaga for making chili the cincinnati way (that is, with as many carbohydrates in the bowl as you can fit: pasta, beans, onions, oyster crackers, and i am leaving out a few, believe me). i steer clear, far as i can run.

the one dance we do do, the one we return to every year, is the one page 82 refers to as “lamb and brown rice pilaf,” but we call it, simply, succinctly, rosh hashanah stew. that’s the thing we make together.

and not to brag or anything, but we make it rather swell. i chop, he stirs. i stir, he chops. last night he even volunteered to be the one to stay up to midnight on the cool patrol so we could tuck it in the fridge without melting all the cottage cheese.

when you start with five pounds of chopped-up leg of lamb, add buckets of brown rice, gallons of broth, you wind up with a vat that demands shelves be removed so it can spend the night sleeping in the ice box.

we make it in industrial-sized amounts because the only way to eat lamb stew is in a crowd. a crowd that every year gets big and bigger. tonight i think there’re 85. only kidding. but it almost feels that big.

we’ve been eating lamb stew since our beginning, and that, of all the ingredients, is the one that makes it most delicious.

a hundred years ago, the day after the night that my beloved hauled me over the threshold (he really did, up and grunted, i don’t say these things so lightly) just home from our mountain-hiking honeymoon, i rubbed my aching legs and my brand-new husband set out to stir tradition.

he yanked some book right off the shelf, a book i’d given him and inscribed before i knew i’d be his bride. the jewish holiday cookbook, it is simply called. and i wrote something to the effect of how i hoped his home would always be warm and glowing at its heart. i did not think i would be in that kitchen, back in the days when the jewish-catholic hurdle seemed too high to climb.

i can’t recall why he landed on 82, the page that starts and ends it all. perhaps it was the cinnamon and apples. or the allspice and onions. or the gobs of lamb.

but i do remember, as if this very day, him standing there at the teeny-tiny table chopping, chopping, chopping. i do recall the landlady coming to check on all the racket.

and that, as you so deeply dearly know, is what makes every thing worth cooking once a year so sweet you’d lick the spoon, the pot, even the pot lid.

page 82 is no longer just a way to get a pot onto the table. it is not some step-by-step follow the bouncing lamb.

it is, in all its splattered glory, the essence of who we are: catholic girl gives jewish cookbook to boy she thinks will cook in someone else’s kitchen. but instead he cooks from it on the day their life at home begins. for years and years now it’s been ladled onto plates at tables that have moved from house to house to house.

there’ve been babies at those tables, now big enough to shave. and pregnant bellies that could barely stand the smell. my mama’s sat there, bald from chemo once, not so hungry that hard year. there’ve been friends who’ve moved. and one who died. there’ve been friends who came as couples, now are split apart. and sometimes, like tonight, we welcome back those who’ve been away, far far away, far too long.

it’s a coming-and-a-going sort of dish, the kind that holds a life together.

the ingredients, year after year, are all the same. but the story of the serving is always slightly changed. that’s what makes it rich, the richest stew i know.

and that’s the point of all the splattered pages: they hold the journey of your life. you crack open the book, to a page that needs no marker. and all the stories spill right out, there beside the wooden spoon. you are not just filling the house with cookstove perfume, the alchemy of meat and spice and autumn fruits. you are crowding the kitchen and the dining room with all the souls from all the years.

it brings us back, it carries us forward. that’s the point of splattered pages. the stuff that sticks there, it’s not just flecks of rice and old dried apple; it’s our hearts, and all of those we’ve loved.

and here, so you can do the same, page 82, not quite so splattered.

blair’s lamb stew, a recipe…..
from “the jewish holiday cookbook: an international collection of recipes and customs,” by gloria kaufer greene

6 Tbsp margarine
2 lg onions
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 cups long-grain brown rice
2 to 3 pounds boneless lamb, trimmed of fat and gristle, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 cups beef broth or bouillon
2 15- to 16-ounce can chick peas, drained
1-1/2 cups dark or light raisins
1 apple, chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1/4 tsp salt

in 5- to 6-qt pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, melt the margarine; then cook onions, garlic, celery, stirring till tender.

add rice and cook, stirring, one minute longer.

then add lamb cubes, and stir till brown on all sides.

stir in broth, chickpeas, raisins, apple, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, thyme, pepper and salt. bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat. simmer covered, for about 45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

toss with a fork before serving.
makes about 8 servings.

invite people you love. lick the plate.
note: we use more garlic, apple, raisins and lamb than called for, just to make it yummier.

okay, friends, that’s a long one. but before i go, one simple question: what’s the dish in your house that tells your whole life story? the one you come back to every year, or once a week?
because my questions never end, do you have a cooking partner? one you share the chopping with? tell us of the rhumbas in your kitchen. i wish we did it more. we always say we will. tell us what it’s like. please.

in awe

for a girl who grew up whispering “glory be to the Father,” whenever i felt afraid. for a girl who pedaled her bike to early mass in the mornings, thinking my soul would shine, really shine, like a glow-in-the-dark pair of lungs. for a girl who once wondered if there was a chance, even a slim one, that she too could turn into saint, a 20th-century saint, complete with three miracles, canonization, the whole deal.

for a girl like that it is a curious thing that today, when she walks into synagogue, up the steps, into the room where the sunlight streams in, the sunlight that pours over the pages of prayers that are written in hebrew, she will be filled with awe.

but it’s true. over the years this most blessed day, rosh hashanah, the holy new year, has seeped into my soul, into the cracks and the tight places. has filled me with longing and coming home, too.

i am as at home in the prayers of the new year as i am anywhere else. i tingle at this time of year. if that’s awe, and i think that it is, i’ve got it.

the stretch here, from rosh hashanah today until yom kippur 10 days away, is called, you might know, the days of awe.

awe for the God who gives life, who gives harvest, and who writes our names in His book. we are inscribed now. you might hear the scritch-scratch of the pen. God writing your name and your days up ahead. today it is written. on yom kippur it is sealed.

it is not only that that stirs me. it is everything else. it is the bite in the air as the autumn rolls in. and the rustle up in the trees. the old leaves are drying, are wrinkling, are getting ready to fall.

and then, always, the light. the synagogue where i pray has a whole eastern wall that is old leaded glass. the light plays there. it draws me in. in the midst of a prayer i might look up at the light, watch it. see the dust floating there, suspended. like some sort of prayer. on its way up to God, but not there yet.

and the voices. the chanting in hebrew of words and in minor-key notes that will stick in my head, that i’ll be humming for days. because they move me. because i don’t want to leave the place that they take me.

and the sound of the shofar. the ram’s horn that is blown, that could rattle the walls. talk about feeling a current run through your spine. it’s a collect call from God.

and then at home, it’s all apples and honey and the round spiraling challah, the sweet bread. all around there is sweet golden honey it seems.

these are the days at the end of the harvest, when the nectar is tapped. that’s how it was long long ago, when the jews left their fields and gathered for prayer. they knew the God of the rain and the sun and the wind.

i know Him too.

and that’s where the awe comes. here i am thousands and thousands of years later. i’ve not seen a goat or a sheep since i was out at some farm in the zoo. i don’t know what it is to feel the sun beat down on my back as i break through dry earth, hard as a rock.

but the prayers, some of them, echo the sound of a people who are of the fields and the flocks, and very hard labor. and i hear in their words how something so simple as rain from the clouds might be a tap on the shoulder from God, a whispering, “Here I Am.”

i know this God. and i am in awe that i now understand how to listen for him in two different tongues. i know the God of the church, the one who i kneel to, make the sign of the cross, swallow holy communion.

but i know, too, the God of the synagogue.

i feel that God wrapped around me like some sort of prayer shawl. i am at home with the God of the sweet autumn light. and the honey and apples.

i took a road, some ways back, that i’d never expected. but it is a road that i’ve watched very closely. i’ve studied it, taken its bumps, and come up the inclines.

it’s carried me home.

not sure how meandery all this is. but that’s the definition of meditation, and that’s what i did here. i followed the trail of my thoughts wherever they went. and this here is what flowed. have you found, over the years, a road you never knew you would take? but once you walked it, you found yourself coming to understand it was taking you somewhere? and the journey, no matter how far or how twisted, was as much of a blessing, as the getting there was?

to everyone, jew or not jew, i wish you a most blessed new year, a day of awe, a string of days of awe, l’shanah tovah.

p.s. stay tuned for middle eastern lamb stew. it’s our rosh hashanah tradition and it’s coming tomorrow…..five pounds of lamb are in the fridge, waiting for alchemy. even people who hate lamb, beg to come back for more. i’m not kidding. i’ll tell you the story, give you the roadmap tomorrow. you’ll be drooling. bring forks.

early shift

yipes. i don’t want to come off sounding like a cereal commercial, or, worse, some government-backed federal nutrition committee, but i’ve been thinking a lot about breakfast of late.
might have something to do with my waking up with the stars. the flakes you spoon in your mouth ’round the 8 o’clock bell, that’s a midday meal, far as i’m thinking.
my first meal, the one i’m gulping right now, is coffee, coffee, and more coffee. straight up, thick as a spoon. no room for sugar, thank you.
oh, i nearly forgot. i start with a concoction of–wait, let me reach for my glasses, the itty-bitty ones that make print boing off the page–hmm, looks like i guzzle 31 organic fruits, veggies and a handful of probiotic species (whatever that is; should i call the police?) for good measure. i never knew i drank okra for breakfast. and brussels sprouts too. maybe that’s why some mornings i bounce in my chair.
it’s all green and powdery. i add water, plug my nose and down it like some sort of vegetarian liver. the label tells me it’s “an awakening of organic greens and fruits.” i feel better already. and mighty awakened.
but that is not the meal i’ve been thinking about. it’s not me that i think about feeding. it’s my boys. the ones leased to me, for as long as it takes to get them sitting up straight, brushing their teeth, saving the world. (good thing for that last clause there; guarantees they’re mine for a while.)
it must be the back-to-school thing. it might be that voodoo inside me, the one always concocting some magical plot to protect them, to fortify them, to get them through life without wobbling.
i’ve got one growing so fast his jeans seem to shrink inches each morning. and another one whose butterflies are still banging around in his tummy, fluttering this way and that. he cried in his pillow the night before last, asking if maybe i’d call up the school, inform them he was switching to the half-day school plan.
oh, holy cornflakes. these children need sustenance, need joy, need snap-crackle-pop in the morning.
call it my latest lame-brained idea but i woke with a start near the first day of school and i realized there is but one tiny window when i can unfold the day, lay it before them, set the pace and the tempo, surely the mood.
it can be harried, and hurried, and me, like one of those curly-coifed mutts with the hair bows, yapping at their heels. or it can be filled with grace, and a few tricks up my sleeve.
i went with door no. 2.
i even invented a game. but before i let you in on the rules, before you call the martha police, lock me up, toss the key, you must know: we didn’t play very long. the game, like so many routines around here, wound down before it gathered much steam.
it went something like this: i was the waitress. they were the customers. (i can hear the chorus kicking in right about here, the ones who abhor mothers who dote on their darlings. but this was not doting, the doter feebly attempts to convince, this was, um, survival. this was desperately hoping to get bodies hoisted from beds.)
enough of the backpedaling my very own story, my very own plot. (psst, you in the back of the room, you stop making fun.)
fact is, every once in a while we need a little pretend, a little artifice, to make things crack out of their humdrum old shell. so i concocted a menu. i grabbed a ratty old order pad, left over from a long ago birthday party for a girl now in 8th grade. she wanted to play diner on a rather grand scale, so she did, and we wandered home with a peach-colored pad that looks so official.
anyway, you get the drift. i knocked on their doors each night before bed, and in my best gum-crackin’, pencil-behind-the-ear waitressy talk, i got them to tell me what they wanted for breakfast.
i’m telling you, it worked. it gave me a leg to stand on down in the kitchen, where, instead of staring into the fridge, waiting for foods to start floating, mary poppins style, i could get right to work, whipping up eggs, frying bacon. slinging some hash. (all right so i wouldn’t know from hash if it knocked me in the cheeks, but that litany there demanded the slinging of hash. it’s a writing thing.)
for three days running, they short-ordered, i cooked. then the weekend came. we forgot. the pad and the pencil sit idle still.
but it gave me a glimmer of something that’s sizzling yet: taking time in the morning, making it matter, is a blessing for whoever comes to your kitchen.
morning, by all definitions, is a gift. you put your head to the pillow, you don’t even think the morning won’t come. but, people, it is always a scratch-and-win card i’d not want to lose. not yet anyway.
so, dang, make the most of it. in the chunk of an hour between sleep and bus or train or whatever mode gets you and the ones who you love to wherever you all need to be, you can, if you want to, delight all the senses.
see, there i go sounding like the national committee for the prevention of breakfast abuse.
all i know is, it’s working. people around here seem to be smiling. they might even be humming.
they notice the table is set. the papers are waiting. they are diving in to breakfasts that clearly take time (fear not, i can type and flip pancakes, even pour juice, all at once).
it’s a little bit busy for a little bit of the day, but then the calm comes. and so does the quiet. and the ions who inhabit my planet, the one i call home, are out charging the world.
that’s when i pull out a chair, sit down to my mid-day meal, and feel blessed beyond blessed that already this day i have fed much more than their tummies. i have fueled them with all that i know.
i am incurably, insatiably in love with the early shift here at my diner. it’s just the dishes i wish i could outsource.

every once in a while i get brave and give you a peek at some totally queer part of my heart. this would be one. what i’m hoping for here is not a list of ideas of ways to slice apples into cute little faces, but rather your thoughts on making the morning matter. lest you shove off thinking how harried your morning just was, know that mine have been plenty harry. it’s just that i’m trying for a new level of grace. and i find that the morning soaks it, like orange juice to a paper towel when it spills. which it does at least one morning a week.

up-to-the-minute report: because the gods of the morning are wicked funny, sit up on the clouds laughing at me, this is how my most blessed morning just unfolded with boy no. 1–when i struck the match to turn on the broiler, for this apple, cheese, bread melt thingie he loves, something went pop and blistered the top of my finger. boy 1, having no time to eat, took his melty-blistery thing in a baggie, wolfed it as he loped down the walk. the little one’s still sleeping, so strike three might be awaiting.

last note of the day: this here marks nine months of pulling up chairs. i’m committed to every monday through friday for a year. after that, we’ll shake things out. see what changes we’ll make, maybe not bombard you quite every day. but i wanted to follow a year, wanted to feel the light change, and the trees. didn’t realize how much with my boys would unfold. or how my heart would hold up, under all this dissection. for the record: i love this here table. the friends that i’ve made, the ideas we’ve chewed on. i love reading your stories, those of you who choose to write back. but i love too knowing, i think, that someone is out there. bless you and thank you for coming. see you tomorrow.

butterfly burial ground

at first, it was one. one lone wing rising up from the sands, fluttering in that way that a butterfly flutters. only this was only a wing. no sign of the rest. a sojourner dashed. stricken of flight.

i stooped to touch. i walked on. there, not far away, was another. only this one was faded, not brilliant and full of the sun. it was losing its light there in the sand, along the edge of the water, where the waves kept rolling in.

and on and on, it unfolded. i walked and i walked past the wings. i connected the dots. the whole beach was a fading mosaic. if you were looking.

this was a subtle pastiche, each wing being drained of its sunset. a watercolor washed out by the hour.

it whispered, the beach of the butterfly wings. and the song that it whispered was sad. the last flutter of so many monarchs buried there in the sand.

i imagined them falling. one by one from the sky, from the wave of the wind that they follow. the long journey, perhaps, was too much. three thousand miles for a flying machine with a wing span of only four inches is rather a distance. to say the least.

and there in the midst of the carnage was a live one, a fluttering one. my heart leapt. right along with the monarch that darted and landed, then soared. out over the water.

had it come to whisper goodbye? was it left all alone? was it lost? was it aching?

perhaps it was waiting for night. that’s when the clouds come, clouds of monarchs. that’s a sight i’d pay to watch. under the moon, a cumulus cloud of orange with black and white spots. or maybe a cirrus.

the monarch, known in latin as Danaus plexippus, “sleepy transformation,” is named for the daughters of danaus, the libyan king, whose daughters, according to legend, fled to greece to avoid marrying their cousins.

the monarch flees too.

the monarch, of all the 24,000 species of butterflies, is the one who migrates the longest. and the migration is a story that leaves me in goosebumps. maybe you, too.

for most of the year, the monarch, like every other butterfly, lives an ephemeral life. it’s born, and within weeks, it dies.

not so the monarchs of autumn. they are the methuselah generation.

and i am not making that up. that’s what lepidopterists–or butterfly know-it-alls–call it. named it, of course, for the oldest old man of the bible, methuselah, the one who, according to genesis 5:27, lived “nine hundred sixty and nine years.”

the monarchs born in late august, way way up in canada, where they summer, are born into a non-reproductive state.

they have no interest in mating. no interest in flapping their wings for romantic purpose–not yet, anyway; that will wait until the spring after the winter, when their days are more numbered.

for now, they are hellbent on making it south. the ones born in august live as long as eight months. sometimes only seven. except for the ones that fall to the beach, and die way too soon.

die before they get to the mountains of mexico. central mexico. up high, 10,000 feet above sea level, on slopes that face the southwest. where it’s cool and it’s safe from the winds. where their motors can hum without burning much fuel.

not until 1975 did the scientists know where they landed, the clouds of the monarchs that fly in the night.

it was a secret known only to those in the villages nearby. can you imagine harboring such a secret? knowing that yours were the trees where the monarchs returned, where they hovered in masses, a thick coating of orange with black stripes and white spots, making your fir trees look like fluttering fire?

here’s something else that might make you need to sit down, to take a deep breath. and if you’re already sitting, you may need to recline. and bring on the salts.

the monarchs come back, each year, to the very same tree. talk about a family tree.

as you will soon learn, though, the very same monarch doesn’t make the entire round trip. but, heck, two-thirds of the way isn’t so wimpy. when the road home criss-crosses the whole of a continent. when you live in two trees, one with canadian roots, the other sunk deep in mexican soils.

the methuselahs, the ones that cling to the trees through the winter, mate and die somewhere in texas, on the return trip, back up to the north.

but then, the relay begins. their children and grandchildren take it the rest of the way. one generation giving way to another, who make it, finally, up to the canadian forests. their great-grandchildren, the next methuselahs, come back to the ol’ family fir, down mexico way, come the next fall.

now, i have no clue how they find out these things. do they put post-its under their wings, mark them with paint? do they fly in a plane right beside, track every move of their wings? i’m telling you, these are the kinds of the things that fill up my brain. that keep me awake in the night. wondering how in the world do they know it’s the very same tree.

oh, well. at some point, in the study of monarchs and the study of life, you throw up your hands. you simply accept. you believe what you read in a book, what you see with your eyes, what your heart tells you is true.
but back to the monarchs.

you might see them these days, darting about in your garden. they are sucking up nectar for the very long flight. they store it as fat in their bellies. they conserve it. they actually gain weight on their autumn migration. they glide on the wind, those very smart monarchs. they desperately need all the fat to get through the winter. up high in the trees.

here’s another fine thing: they drink from the mist, and the fog. they drink while they’re flying, and when they land in the fall–in the trees down in mexico if they’re monarchs from east of the rockies, or in coves along the california pacific if they’re from west of the rockies–they quench their thirst, a considerable thirst, i’d imagine, from the ocean mist that rolls into the coves, and the fog clouds that settle high in the mexican mountains.

for a tissue-thin thing that weighs less than a stamp, it’s utterly barely conceivable. no one yet knows how it makes such a trip. or how, without a map, it finds its way home to the exact same address, year after year.

but the people who follow the butterflies do know that if you looked up in the night now, you would see a most marvelous thing.

and maybe you’d hear it. if you grew very still. the sound of thousands of thousands of wings flapping toward home.

and every once in a while, a sad one, a lost one, would fall from the sky and land on the beach where i found all the wings. piled quite thickly in places.

it is a sacred thing, the sands now are holy, to go out for a walk and stumble upon wing after wing. to know that the monarchs were high overhead. and the ones who were lost found a place in the sand. where they’re fading and falling apart. back to the earth. to flutter no more. except for there in the wind.

i keep going back. i am drawn to the burial ground of the monarchs. i’m keeping watch, keeping vigil. i am the caretaker of a wonder that’s fading. reminding me how fragile is life, and the small things that follow the wind. i am strengthened, i am humbled, by the power of a flight filled with mystery. and a beauty that cannot be caught in a net.

a beauty that year after year turns the sky to a cloud of fluttering flame. and makes a tree, faraway, look as if it’s on fire.

are you a butterfly watcher? what parts of the story amaze you? leave you jaw-dropped? what a most blessed thing to know a place where the trace of the butterfly flight is buried, and the wings flap at half-mast, where if you were walking and not paying attention, you might think the beach was on fire, with all of these faded orange bits, licking the wind, the last flames of a storybook life. have you seen such a thing? is it not sacred, defined? i walk lightly in these, the butterfly days…

of course, it is 9-11. it was eery to write of winged things falling from the sky. we all have our stories. we all have our prayers. to those lost on september 11, we have not forgotten. may your children, especially, be touched with the grace of a God who brings butterflies home, year after year.

groping for grace

sleep would not come the other night, was nowhere in sight. nowhere in the dark, either. only the thump-thump of my heart in my chest. and the same up in my head.

i did something i haven’t done since, lord, i can’t remember. oh, i have stashed one in my pocket whenever i, or someone i love, get wheeled off to surgery. and i’ve slipped one down to the bottom of my suitcase. keeps the plane in the air.

but i have not lay in my bed fingering my rosary in a long, long time.

maybe it was all the talk of my little one and the red heart in his pocket. maybe it was thinking about how, through the ages, the fingering of small beads is nothing unusual. nothing new.

before there were therapists, well before, apparently, there were stones at the side of the river, beans dried in the breeze, rose buds, too, curled into tight little knots there under the late summer sunshine.

so too, we who are catholic grow up with our rosaries. we get one, or at least i did, when i was old enough to wear little white gloves and carry a white straw purse to the pew. the rosary gave me something to do, something to make me look like i knew how to pray there with the forest of tall people, casting shadows, making it dark down where i stood on my tippiest toes, trying for a glimpse of the priest.

i’ve had ones that glow in the dark (always helpful, always fun for making shapes under the covers, seeing how long you could get it to glow).

i’ve had the little ring of a rosary, sort of a clif’s notes of rosaries, a single circle of ten beads and a cross (condensed from the standard long loopy strand of 59 beads and a cross and a medal), that slipped out of my father’s pocket when he died, and into mine. it’s the one that i keep closest at hand.

it’s the one that i squeezed till my fingers turned white when they threaded the wire into the heart of the man who i love. and when they dug out the cancer from the breast of my mother. and that i would have grabbed, had i known, on the crisp autumn night when the ambulance carried me and my firstborn through the streets of the city, his head and his neck taped to a stretcher. i prayed without beads that night, i prayed with the nubs of my cold clammy fingers.

ah, but the one that i groped for the other night, it is my glory-be of all glories. it lives in the dark of the drawer beside my bed. each bead is a pewter rosebud, each joined with the link of a chain. a rather provocative construction when you think about it.

but then rosaries are meant, mostly, to put you into a trance. to go beyond thinking and into a deeper place still. into the place where prayer dwells. true prayer. a complete letting go. not an asking for this or for that. but for casting your soul to something beyond, letting it light on a breeze. not unlike flying a kite, really. you let out the string, catch the wind, and then you are soaring. your kite bobs. it dips and it dives.

so too do your prayers. when you pray on the wind. when you pray to the place where you soon fall asleep.

there are spells in our lives that call us back to our very first stirrings. to the God who we know is there like the night light that never goes out. i am needing that God right along here. i am clinging to beads in the dark in the night. they’re not very far from my pillow. i reach and i grope in the drawer. there they are. safe in my fist.

or is it my fist, safe at last, safe in the nest of my beads that carry me places where the wind does the rest?

i just finger the rosebuds, let out the string, whisper the prayer, and i soar.

speaking of rosaries, and people you love slipping behind swinging steel doors, doors marked surgery. our beloved becca is there as i type, and i’ve got my rosary right in my pocket.
in the whirl of last week, i forgot the birthday of a friend who i love. jane. blessed jane. it’s not a birthday with zeroes so she said it was no big deal. but she breathes joy in my heart, so any day that honors her birth is a big one. far as i care. so happy most blessed birthday.

now about prayer….how do you get to the place where you soar? where you are well off the ground, unlinked from all that would chain you, keep you tied to the weights of your worries? do tell if you care to. i’m listening, of course….

the ones who teach our children

last night it was grown-ups-squeeze-into-little-people’s-chairs-at-school night. with your knees cocked to your nose, and your bottom spilling off of the sides, it’s a very good posture, a very smart way, to start off the school year.
it makes you remember. it makes you think how it feels to sit in a little small chair. and look up to the teacher. and get a really fine chance through the year to study her chin. and zoom in on her heart.
the heart and the head up above it last night were very fine things. if i were still little and fit in those chairs, i wouldn’t budge. well, maybe to go to the girls’ room. but i could sit and learn from that teacher. for a very long time. well past first grade.
and that’s how you know you struck gold in the gold mine.
there are other ways, too.
when, out of the blue, just a day or two earlier, your little one tore open his backpack, unfolded a letter he said came from the principal (only really it came from the teacher). it was there on his desk in the morning, he said. no one else got one.
you read and you cry. and you turn over the teddy-bear paper, and it gets even better.
there is a someone you hardly just met, and already she’s telling your child how she sees he’s got big, big ideas. and she loves them.
and you think to yourself, this is a really smart teacher. no, not because she was sweet to your sweetheart. no, not that at all. (well, maybe a little.) no, you think that she’s smart, you know that she’s smart, because she figured out, maybe, that the little one she wrote to might just be wondering what in the world he is doing in there, where the water feels awfully deep.
and he’s just only learning to paddle. he’s not yet much of a swimmer. and all around him, he thinks and she understands, because she’s been teaching forever and she can spot from miles away the ones who might think that they need a lifeguard, he’s convinced the others might be ready for flip turns.
and that makes him worry inside. where unless you have x-rays for eyes, which some teachers certainly have, you wouldn’t see quite how worried he is. but she sees.
so before he has even a chance to begin to think that he’s lost, she’s tossed him the rope, reeled him in. made him believe–cuz the note was just a speck i happened to see, i know that there’s buckets besides–that he matters.
now that is an amazing discovery. when you’re six or sixteen or well beyond sixty-six sixes.
and that is, when you stop and you think, what makes me declare teachers are national treasures.
how many folks do you know who go to work each day to buff and to shine little hearts? to make them feel that they matter? and that they are smart? that they are in charge of the letters and sounds and the numbers?
my mother-in-law, a woman i love, has been teaching for 53 years. or maybe it’s just 52. she told me last week of a student she’d recently heard from, a man now, from her class from long long ago. he told her he loved coming to school because she was there in the classroom. and she hugged him each day, and she kissed him. he told her that growing up, that was the only place in the world he got kisses. he got nothing at home, not one single hug. i think she said he’s now a doctor. and he still remembers her lipstick, there on his cheek, when he walked out the door of her classroom.
where in the world would we be without these angels and saints right among us? these people who choose, with all of their gifts, to go into the classroom, to teach little children. these people who make it their work to stay up late in the night, to type letters to parents, to cut papers and glue, to take children who nearly are drowning, to show them the way to the side of the pool, and make it a triumph to get there.
do you know what it takes to be in a classroom, to have two dozen wandering minds that you spend your day reining in? and what about wiggly feets?
oh my God, i’d come home and faint. i don’t have what it takes, not at all. which is why, sitting there in that little wee chair, i sat with my jaw in my lap.
i say bring on the parade. get the floats and the roses. order up fireworks, too. these people are heroes among us.
on the sidewalks, at the grocery, or even the bank, they might look just like we do. but really they’re not, not at all. they must glow as they stand in the shower. they must smell of heavenly scents.
i know a saint when i see one. and i met one last night.

tell a tale of a teacher you love. this here at the table is national we-love-teachers day. why? because they’ve been at it all week, now, or maybe longer. they deserve breakfast in bed and slippers for their toes. short of that, we can give them their due down below. rattle on, flow from the heart. then tell the teacher you love to come and read it all here. i might be too shy to do so, but heck, let it rip, starting now….

oh, and before you do that, please sing a song, a rousing and most happy birthday to one of the queenliest souls that i know, an angel and saint in her own right, though at the moment she’s not in a classroom. elizabeth marie is her name. and she’s similarly heavenly-sent.

oh, one last thing: the note my little one got, up above, is part of a class-wide, yearlong endeavor. the teacher calls them secret letters, and you never know when one’s coming. but everyone gets one. i don’t want you to think she’s the sort who would leave anyone out. ever. he just got to go first. which was extremely nice. and as i said, smarter than smart. let the ovations begin…..the teacher ovations, i mean…

killer kernels

maybe someone should come wire my trap. like gulliver, only with little steel cables, tight braces criss-crossing my teeth, the top to the bottom.
what i eat–no, what i religiously, regularly, reliably chomp–every night, going clear back to college, might kill me.
the good doctors now say so.
it was only a matter of time.
i found out last night.
like the rest of the not-so-good news that’s landed here lately, exploded right under my nose, this one came in without bombast over the email transom. laid there unsuspectingly, without warning or red flashing light.
i just clicked and i read.
“oh, dear,” i whispered out loud.
“this was in today’s times and on nat’l radio,” my informant began. “are you aware of the ‘popcorn habit’ illness from buttered popcorn made in the microwave? i think you don’t butter yours. ”
egad. i followed the trail.
sure enough, there on page 23 of the venerable gray lady, the times of new york, the paper they live by there on the coast to the right, and everywhere else where what you read defines you, tells the world your relative intelligence quotient. or so some people think (the ones always quick to inform that they don’t stoop to the paper i work for, don’t want to muddy their rarefied waters).
but back to page 23, top left corner, where editors put things they want you to see: “doctor links a man’s illness to microwave popcorn habit.”
it begins: “a fondness for microwave buttered popcorn may have led a 53-year-old colorado man to develop a serious lung condition that until now has been found only in people working in popcorn plants.”
oh, geez, i am so dead.
strike that. so asphyxiated. so bronchially buttered.
i happen to live–for the most part–as if i desperately want a tomorrow. i gulp greens. walk miles. floss most nights before bed.
for too long, as long as i can remember maybe, i’ve been afraid, deep down inside, of premature death. maybe it comes from having a father whisked away way too young. maybe it comes from my years as a nurse working with kids with no hair or a stump for a leg. kids who died in my arms. maybe it’s just how i’m wired.
but basically, mostly, i’ve avoided the things that would kill me. except for, apparently, i’m now finding out, that big bowl of popcorn i inhale every night.
oh, all right, so maybe it’s two.
i am hardly alone in the popcorn club. i know all sorts of folks who wind up the day with a big steaming bowl of the stuff. never mind how it gets stuck in your gums, how those delicate bits jam up where it feels like a humongous splinter and you go running for floss like it’s some kind of almighty savior. which, frankly, it is.
popcorn, i’m convinced, is rather hypnotic. you chomp and you stuff and you go in a trance. your worries are gone by mid-bowl, when really you’ve lost all your taste. you are, by then, merely chomping to chomp. your teeth seem to enjoy the percussive repeat and repeat. or at least mine do.
i cannot imagine a cocktail has similar effect. there’s no motor involvement. just the mere sipping. although there is that chemical thing. that might make up for the lack of the chewing.
and, curiously, i do know plenty of women, frustrated mothers, especially, who harbor their bowl before bed. why, it’s almost something that’s talked of in whispers. i know. i’ve whispered.
but now, i am quite loudly worried. who knew it could kill me, those innocent kernels of corn? killer kernels.
to be precise, and we should be, it’s not the fault of the corn. it’s the buttery spray that i spritz on the top. heaven forbid i should down me a genuine globule of fat. no, i prefer to spray on faux butter.
and, gulp, no surprise, now i find that that’s stupid. as if i shouldn’t have known that a bright yellow can with a push-button squirter would hardly be filled with anything healthy.
so now i find out that there could be a serious consequence. a diacetyl, they say, is the culprit. a something that’s naturally found in butter and milk and real cheese. but in synthetic butter, when it’s steamy and turns to a vapor, it gets in your lungs and clogs all the parts where the air goes. that is not sounding so pretty.
so there i sat late last night at the table, my one hand of course in the bowl, the other holding the paper. reading the news that the popcorn habit disease is so named, and the poor fellow out in the mountains is coughing.
i coughed too. choked, really.
and just about then, the boy who i love, the one who now knows from a razor, he strolled in, looked over my shoulder, and just about shouted.
“stop eating popcorn now,” he insisted, sounding like he now was the parent and i was the naughty young child.
“for the little guy’s sake,” he zinged, an arrow straight to my half-century-old heart.
“people like cigarettes and alcohol and cocaine, too, mom. they think they can’t stop.”
that’s when he opened the freezer, pulled out the tub of double vanilla, slow-churn, half the fat, a third of the calories.
“i used to think you were this super emotionally strong person,” he said, scooping. “but now you can’t stop eating popcorn just cuz it tastes good.”
he sat right beside me.
“they make popcorn-flavored jelly beans,” he said, licking the spoon. “we could get one of those hundred-flavor packs, and i’d give you all the popcorn-flavored ones, and then i’d conveniently take all the rest.”
i put down the bowl and the paper. i coughed once or twice. just reflex, really. or maybe a once-crunchy puff now caught in my throat.
“don’t start coughin’ on me,” he said, shooting a gleam through the curls that boing over his eyes.
hmm, i wondered as i dumped out the little bit left, would a big bowl of carrots work quite so well to clear out my head, to lull me to sleep, at the end of a very long day?
it is highly unlikely.
and if you care to join me, the 12-step unchaining of me to my popcorn begins, well, maybe tomorrow.

don’t you hate when science ruins a very good thing? have you had to stop some habit you loved, some habit that brought you great solace? i’m not talking of ones that ruin whole lives, bring down a whole house while they’re at it. i’m talkin’ your garden-variety screech-on-the-brakes because someone somewhere found out that running was bad for your knees, or caffeine would slaughter your sleep. or popcorn and movies would have you gasping for air. any bedtime routines that a.) soothe and b.) are fine for your lungs? i’m taking ideas….

a garden unlocked

on a day when the sun, i swear, was trying to make soup out of candles, i wandered off to a garden. a locked garden. a garden you need to get into through the swift punching of buttons in a particular order. and then through a lock and a key on your particular plot.
it wasn’t my garden. i don’t have to lock what i grow. but my old friend irene does. she locks what she grows back by the gravel yard, back where the garbage once rose, in the old city dump. back where when she first started digging, 35 years ago, she dug into radiators and stove parts, old shoes and tin cans.
“pure gray clay, two feet deep, and that’s how i met my first chiropractor,” says irene, who is 80 next week. irene, who lives in public housing. irene, whose father, long ago, invented a kind of a camera, a swell camera, one with bellows and a really fine german lens. a camera that bought them a penthouse and three live-in maids. but then the depression came, the family split up. irene moved with her mother to a cold-water flat.
ever since, irene has been using that gene from her father, the inventing gene, to never take no for an answer, to think and to think and come up with ingenious devices. ways to get around all sorts of obstacles.
ways to grow gardens on dumps.
you should see what she grows there: comfrey and gooseberries, butternut squash, and a squash from somewhere in asia. she can’t remember. korean yellow watermelon and amaranth that’s purple, russian seaberries and fennel and even plain old tomatoes. okra and jerusalem artichoke. globe artichoke, too. red currants and asparagus and some italian zucchini, called zuccetta rompicanti–or trombone squash–that the nasty old squash borer, a pest if ever there was one, leaves all alone.
her plot, by the way, is maybe the size of two double beds. she grows so much that over the years she’s had to splurge and rent her an annex of sorts. that’s another $55 a year, which for irene is rather a lot.
but she feeds herself for the whole year from the two little plots in the community garden. and these days she’s feeding the homeless as well, and that’s part of the reason i went off to see her. for my dayjob, you see, i’m telling that part of the story. (and, sorry, but you’ll have to wait.)
irene, who swims in the lake every morning, for years has ridden her bike to every starbucks around to pick up free grounds for her compost. she now makes a tea for her garden, mixing weeds–thistle and comfrey–and water, and letting it steep for 21 days, till its perfectly heady.
she read that in a magazine, one of her organic magazines. and she decided to follow the recipe. now, in a 54-gallon drum she recycled from somewhere, she keeps a tub brewing smack dab in the midst of her amaranth.
a young chemist, she explains, was hellbent on finding “some way to capture the goodness and essence of weeds,” to put it back in the garden.
irene, a disciple of any such thinker, is most pleased with the tea. thank goodness she didn’t ask me to sip some. irene is always sharing whatever comes from her garden. i would draw the line, though, at a bubbling brew in a recycled industrial vat. ykkh.
this year has been a rough one for irene. way back in the spring she took her first vacation in years. went out to california to stay with some friends, and came home with a wrenched knee from cross-country skiing. she couldn’t walk for nearly two months. had tears soaking her leathery, deeply-lined cheeks.
that set her back a few weeks when it came to getting her tomatoes in. and while she was gone, someone broke in her apartment. stole all her heirloom tomato seeds, her jeans, warm socks and two packets of beans.
not long after, out in the garden, someone up and dug up her raspberries. helped themselves. to a whole bush. two bushes, in fact. “they knew mine were the best,” she explains, matter-of-factly, almost proudly. without one drop of guile.
then the heat and the rains came. so too did the corn-root worm beetle, which did in her plain old american zucchini, and most of her cukes. and one night in august it dipped down to 50 degrees. that did in the basil.
“so it went into the compost,” says irene, over her shoulder, pushing a vine right out of the way.
nothing is ever a defeat in irene’s garden. she learns from every wrong turn, finds the triumph in experiments that you might call botched. she tries again. tries a new angle. keeps getting smarter, uncannier. and when all else fails, there’s always the compost pile.
pretty much, that’s the metaphor for her life. if she can’t get around the corn-root worm beetle, can’t stop a cold night, well then, it’s heave-ho to the compost.
ah, but that’s where her black gold comes. that’s where she throws down the dead stuff, waits for decay to draw out the life, so she can put her foot to her pitchfork and turn it back in. resurrection, quite plainly. she uses the velvety born-again soil to bless all that breaks through the earth, pushes clear to the sky, in her garden.
that’s what i love about irene. irene, who, by the way, puts in 10-hour days under the sun, plenty of days. four hours, she calls a short day. she never sits still because she is intent on coaxing the best from this earth, from this lifetime.
irene understands something essential, something worth learning. there’s not a day in her book, not an hour, that’s wasted. not, say, a recycled jungle gym that makes for a fine cucumber trellis. someone was throwing it out. it was rusty and bent, and tossed to the curb. she saw its beauty. possibility, too. she hauled it off to her garden. made it stand, proud and tall. now covered with curlicue tendrils and the start of a few baby cukes, it is irene at her best. it is stunning.
irene who has little is one of the richest women i know.
and that’s why i took you out to her garden today.

maybe some day when we all pull up chairs, irene can supply the tomatoes. or the italian zucchini. you would love her, her and her deep gravelly timbre. way before caller i.d. (which i have but don’t ever use), i knew it was irene on the line, because of the way she says, barbara. if i grew a garden of people, irene would be the vine that climbs over everything, stops at nothing, goes for the sky. and is breathtakingly lovely. do you have someone in your life who teaches you things worth putting on paper? lessons on making something from nothing? who is someone you’d grow in your garden?

most importantly, today is my big brother’s birthday. my california brother, the one who flies high for a living. the one who signs every letter and card, “blue skies.” that means way more than love to him. that means that’s where he goes to touch all the heavens. he’s a soul more at home in the sky than down on the ground. we all love him. so, happy birthday, uncle airplane. from us on the ground.

red tide

oh geez. i slept through the buzzer. i promised you, weeks ago, i would send out a certified letter when the season arrived, when the red tide was upon us. was drowning us. pouncing us. ripe on the vine.
oh geez. were you waiting? were you there at the table twiddling your thumbs? thinking, hmm, sure is getting late here? i could swear i smell that fruity tomato. sure looks like everyone else on the block is feasting. is drowning. where is that certified letter?
well, people, here it is.
it’s official: we are deep in the season we wait for. the one that covers the inside of our cheeks in canker sores.
yes, dang it, i’ve downed so many of those acid-y fruits i have spots all over the tender insides of my mouth. spots that shout, “ouch,” each time i bite in a ’mater. but never mind. never fear. the rest of my mouth shouts much louder. the tomatoes win every time.
i’ve got the whole rest of the year to heal those ridiculous spots. those spots that dare to protest at the volume, the quantity, the unending river of red that seems to run straight toward my mouth.
i eat them for breakfast and lunch and then dinner. i eat them all day in between. i believe you might call this a binge. but far as i know, it’s understandable. it makes seasonal sense.
it’s a binge that’s not secret and furtive at all. oh, heck, i am right out there, on the front stoop, i tell you, shlurping tomatoes. i’d shlurp down the highway, if i could hold onto the wheel and swipe juice from my chin.
that there is a problem. the one seasonal drawback. i’ve got tomatoey spots on most of my clothes now. on my shirts, on my shorts, even my clogs. good thing my skin doesn’t stain. i’d be red-faced, and not from the shame.
no shame about it.
i don’t know about you, but it seems that, like most addictions, i’ve sniffed out some partners in crime. i’ve a friend down the alley, she pops ’em like candy she says. and here’s the best part: she’s become my supplier.
she comes up the walk in the back, maybe so no one is watching. she carries a brown crinkled bag. it is bursting with all of the goods. she says not a word, just ferries the stash from her vines to my mouth.
she is sweet, and so is her produce.
she is near drowning this year. tried a new-fangled trick. laid red plastic–it has to be red, cannot be green or aqua or yellow–onto the soils below. a half dozen tomatoey bushes, each wearing a red shiny skirt. the other half are buck naked. just the soil, the vine, and the leaves. this is science, you know. one half’s control, the other is out into the future.
you’ll not be surprised to hear that the future is now, and it sure beats the past. three to one, by my count. by the most pregnant vines that are gestationally-challenged right now, that are drooping and bending and sagging under all of the weight. sort of like me, six years ago, in the ninth aching month.
yes, indeed, the future of growing tomatoes is spilling all over the alley. there is something about the red of the plastic, the way it reflects onto the vine that makes the little red fruits want to grow in stunning abundance. they cannot seem to contain themselves. it’s like someone flicked on a tomato machine.
the sweet things are poppin’ all over. the squirrels are having a picnic an hour. chipmunks too. and those of us neighbors, apparently, thankfully, who share a thing for Lycopersicon Lycopersicum–hmm, that sounds like tomato tomatoes to me, but that’s what the taxonomists call the fruit of our dreams.
perhaps my lack of imagination will show here. but i’m plumb running out of ways to consume them. i eat them as is, or sprinkled with sweet, syrupy, purple-y balsamic vinegar. (i have one select bottle at the back of the shelf, one lugged back from a friend’s trip to italy; i reserve it for this time of year. you’ll forgive me a bit of elitism, but the grocery-store variety balsamic just doesn’t come up to snuff. it does not cut the tomato.)
need i mention the salt and the pepper? that’s de rigeur. a tomato without salt is a tomato i might rather spit out.
it’s the twang of the salt and the sugar. it does a jiggity-jig on my tongue, down my throat, straight into my tum.
oh, boy, all this talk of tomatoes is making my tumbly quite rumbly, as dear old pooh likes to say. as we say around here.
i might have to run, have to pant to the kitchen. i hear the sweet fruit of september calling my name rather insistently.
here goes another shirt, sacrificed at the holy altar of Lyco whatever that was.

yo, people, i need help. i need ways to eat my tomatoes. i am not much of a canner, juicer, prairie girl. i am lacking those skills. i am more of a slice ‘em, dice ‘em, make a fine sauce. do you cook them with chicken? grill them? sign up here if you too are a card-carrying member of the not-so-secret tomato society. is this not yet another reason to savor september? any other seasonal thing you go quite so mad for? early asparagus maybe….

trek to the moon

the advance scouts had gone out the night before. had gone out into the moonless pitch black.
well past bedtime in my book. in fact, i was in bed with a book when they called up the stairs, let me know they were off to the lake to see what they could see.
they came home to someone asleep on her book. i woke up to the scouting report that the moon was on late shift, the moon rose as they stood there. and it was a sight i needed to see. we needed to see, they decreed.
so it would be. the whole family, all day, planned for the moon rise there on the beach, over the lake, at the end of the way-too-short summer.
the little one, as always, was in charge of provisions. you never know how long the moon might keep you waiting. you might stir a hunger there on the cool night sand. so he packed us a bag–pepperidge farm cookies, cheese nips and animal crackers.
he thought of everything, the supply chief. there were flashlights in several sizes. and a basketball whistle. “in case we get lost,” came his perfectly sound explanation. he had seen my raised eyebrow, the look on my face that he must see quite often, in the lag before comprehension. sometimes us mamas are slow. so very slow. we need the most rudimentary tutorials. maybe a primer would help.
we’d checked the back page of the paper, the weather page, the one that narrowly loses to the sports page, when it comes to pages fought over. the moon, we were told, would be up at 10:02. we penciled it onto the calendar.
that morning, the morning of the trek to the moon, we happened to be out on the road, taking a drive across town. the little one looked out of his window, noticed the moon. still hanging. in broad daylight. it was 11 o’clock in the morning, and that moon was basically loitering, way up in the sky, barely moving.
“it’s probably setting,” said the back-seat astronomer, matter of factly, as if he’d been up all through the night reading moon books, brushing up on facts that would astound and amaze you.
“the moon always has to go slow,” he explained, “or it will crash into a plane or a astroid,” (psst, that’s how he said it, minus one of the syllables). “the big rock in space,” he added, probably realizing that he knew more about asteroids that anyone else in the car. this was remedial moon class.
all day long, that moon child kept close track of the time. he did not want to miss what the moon scouts had assured would be well worth the missed bedtime. (mostly i think he was thrilled to have a scientific excuse to stay out of bed, to wiggle his toes in the beach instead of under the sheets.)
since everyone else was hauling a camera, he too thought he needed one. a zoom one. so we got one, one of those cardboard toss-away ones. don’t want to thwart a budding moon scientist.
problem was, when we got to the beach at close to the appointed hour, close to the moon rise, all roads were closed. decidedly, emphatically blocked. we had to park on the shadowy side of some very thick trees, and trek in.
hey, no one said trips to the moon came easy.
only, the little one froze. remembered the profusion of skunks that have been clouding these parts all through the summer. seriously considered sitting out this here moon show.
“wish i brought my light saber,” he said after i finally convinced him to unlock the door and please take my hand. barely two yards later, he stopped in mid-step. “i just saw a bat. it was soaring,” he whispered, and shot out his arms to make like a very big bat.
this trip to the moon, i suddenly realized, could take all night. we might get there by sunrise.
as we crossed onto the sands, just where the dune grass and cottonwoods give way to the thin strip of sand that gives way to the lake, he thought he smelled wolf.
i gave up. mostly surrendered. plunked down to the sand right then and there. decided this here–what with the skunks and the bat and the wolf–was the most perfect place to watch for the moon rise.
by the way, i was skeptical. it was blacker than black there on the beach. except for the parking lot lights off in the distance, and a few twinkling stars, there was no speck of light. certainly not out on the horizon, where the black of the night melted right into the black of the lake.
i was sure this was some ruse to get me and the reluctant sleeper out of our nice comfy beds. for all i knew, the clouds, once again, would get in the way of a celestial show. and within minutes, we’d pack it all up, take home our cameras, have nothing to show. not a moon beam. not a twinkle.
but then, with utterly no drum roll, no CNN crawler spelling it out at the pit of the screen, there, out in the distance, a tiny red spot. then a buoy of red. then a sail. then a spinnaker all puffed with wind.
it was the red moon and it rose. bigger and bigger, higher and higher. it turned orange. then yellow. then white by the time it was drooling all over the water. a buttery trail from the sky to the rippling waters, straight to the beach, where it lapped in and out.
we all leapt. we cheered and we pointed.
we stood there quite taken by watching the moon rise. by feeling ourselves and our place on the planet shrink smaller and smaller. the bigger the moon got, the more we were humbled.
it’s not every night that you stop to watch the world as it works. this was no headline-stealing spectacle. no lunar eclipse. no once-in-a-zillion years sky show. this was your basic, every night, spectacular moon rise.
only, we stood there together. only, we watched. each one of us, in his and her very own way, we took in its story. we took in its power, its glory. the unshakable truth that there on the brink of the globe, night after night, there is a chunk of the heavens. and it glows.
it gives no warning, no warm-up. it goes from black to red spot to the thing that lights up the night. it hoists itself up out of the water. or whatever’s beyond. is that where God lives? is the moon hanging with God, before the show comes? are they whispering off in the wings?
i think that’s why maybe we got so quiet, watching the moon rise. you kind of think maybe you’re out there where God is. you half expect to turn and see some other footprint there in the sand. or feel a hand on your shoulder.
you kind of get goosebumps thinking these things.
i could only imagine the power that long, long ago those who kept watch of the moon felt, when the night turned from black to red ember to full-throttle glow.
we stayed and we watched till the moon perched quite high in the night sky. we gathered our cameras, and even our uneaten cookies. no one was hungry. someone was tired.
to stand at the edge of the planet, in the deep of a cool summer’s night. to take in the moon rise with the ones who you love. to think that maybe you’re out there where God walks at night.
seems like a mighty fine end to the summer of ‘007.

how will you mark the end? the end of the season that brings us the great gift of toes in the sand and moons without sweaters? have you watched the moon rise lately? not hang up there, tucked by the stars, but actually hoisting itself up out of the water, off the horizon? unlike the sun, which sends maidens of light to precede it, the moon comes all alone. no entourage in a moon rise. just the pure shining thing all by its lonesome. it’s part of what makes it so breathtaking. there it is, out of nowhere and nothing. a night light, keeping us out of the dark. hope you catch one, sometime soon….