something to say
when i was little, the words, three simple ones really, came one of two ways.
it might be the not-so-good way. the way when i was sent to my room, in some sort of trouble, and told not to come down–here comes the thundering voice, the voice like the one that bellowed to moses, or adam, or one of those early biblical fellows–“until you have something to say.”
or, more often, it might have been there at the edge of the dinner table, when i had scootched-in my chair, employed both elbows and sputters of words to try to make room between milk that was spilling, and stories and noise, to grasp at the pause between breaths, so me and my thoughts could maybe squeeze in.
perhaps, maybe, someone might notice, someone at one end of the table, someone might then spill the three little words, not as above, not as the key to unlock the door of the child in trouble, but rather, permission or challenge: do you have something to say?
w-w-why yes, i might stammer. why yes, i do. and then i’d attempt to quickly put sound to the thoughts that scrammed through my head.
as a matter of fact, i do.
and so early on i found out, you’d better have something to say if you open your mouth. please do not blather. there are plenty of voices here at the table. plenty of noise. you needn’t just open your mouth, show us your tongue, and your wiggly tooth, if there’s nothing but air coming out.
earn your voice, sweetheart.
maybe perhaps that’s the reason i have always had visions of wisdom that, curiously, took the form of an old gentle woman, there at the farmhouse table. i saw generous hands. saw them plopped on the wide planks of pine. pine etched with the markings of years, indents from scribbles of homework, stains from coffee that spilled in the heat of discussion, or unbridled laughter. when arms that were reaching to touch maybe knocked over a mug.
it is the voice there at the table that i heard in my dreams, over and over again. i wanted to grow up and grow old and grow wise.
i wanted that table to often be filled. with one, maybe two, or, heck, a whole gaggle of very good souls. i wanted wisdom to pour there like cream from the pitcher. i wanted it thick, sweet and delicious.
i believe, very much, in that table.
and so, going with a hunch and a wisp in my heart, i made like the iowa farmer in the field of faraway dreams. the one who heard a bellowing voice, plowed his corn field, for crying out loud, laid out a diamond for players of baseball. if you build it, they will come, promised the voice. and, of course, it being a movie and all, they came. a whole screen filled with pickups, by golly.
well, gulp, i didn’t plow any corn field. but i did go with a dream. and i hadn’t a clue how it all would turn out.
that, though, wasn’t the point.
the point was here was a chance to set a place where wisdom belonged.
the point was, the world as i saw it needed a chorus of voices. voices that might gain in volume, that might bellow back. voices that might start with a whisper, or maybe a stammer, but slowly emboldened would rise to a roar. or at least we could sit and talk to ourselves. hear the fine echo of voices who think like each other. or, once in a while, pipe up in fierce disagreement. but with reason. and gentility, please.
i wanted, deeply, for mine not to be the one droning voice. i wanted a table crowded with beautiful sound, the sound of sweet conversation. raucous, but always polite. sharply thought, but gently delivered. i wanted, and i got–oh, boy, did i get–my breath taken away. but that’s getting ahead of the story.
here’s how it started.
it was a year ago tomorrow. it was a tuesday, though, just like today. “a tuesday full of grace,” i wrote on the very first day. seemed fitting.
for the table i set there, the place that i built in the hopes that people would come, it was, from the beginning, a place for grace to make itself known.
i wrote this, last year on that grace-filled tuesday:
“we are looking for everyday grace. i believe that in quietly choosing a way of being, a way of consciously stitching grace and Beauty into the whole cloth of our days, we can sew love where before there was only one moment passing into another.
“making the moment count, that’s what it’s about here. inhaling, and filling your lungs and your soul with possibility. learning to breathe again. learning to listen to the quiet blessed tick and the tock of your heart. filling your soul with great light so that, together, we can shoosh away the darkness that tries always to seep in through the cracks, wherever they might be.
“please, pull up a chair…”
and, oh, as dr. seuss says, the places we’ve gone.
today marks the 261st monday through friday of writing. there were two times when i meandered twice in a day, and one long ago saturday, when i called a town meeting of sorts.
that makes for a total of 264 meanders. and that makes today the last day of a year, a year in which i made a promise, mostly to myself, to write every weekday, to record the coming and going of season, of sunlight, of life.
it was not always easy. though not a once did i write a word i regret. sometimes i was dizzy with joy. sometimes i took a deep breath and, always, i went with the truth. i cried and i laughed as i typed. words poured without even trying. came like a breeze through the trees. or stars up above. just appeared from out of the dark.
sometimes, though, i felt naked, or tired, or achy. i worried over many a word. wondered if maybe i’d said too much. wondered if anyone listened. or cared.
but i kept writing. i thought, maybe perhaps, i had something to say.
i knew, that at least, i was recording a year for my children. i was leaving a trace. i was writing, in the end, a very long love letter.
i left little out.
i wrote of the sound of snow falling. i wrote of a carpenter who took his own life, too short that life, too too short.
i wrote of a most blessed friend making her mother’s last hours filled with the scent of lilac and soft pillowcase threads.
i wrote of a boy who climbs in his bed, armed to fight monsters, and wakes up to a room filled with rainbows. i wrote of the questions a young child asks that cannot be answered.
i wrote of hearing God in the whispers of wind. i wrote of seeing God in the face of a shivering man under a blanket in the bowels of the slush-covered city.
i wrote of hearing my grandmother over my shoulder as i stirred and i patted her shortcakes.
i wrote, often, of my mother.
and, many a time, i wrote of missing my father. always missing the one who called me his sunshine girl.
i wrote of brisket and bumblebees and butterflies whose orange-spotted wings made for a fluttering burial ground on the beach, not far from my prayerful place.
i wrote of the moon and its lace and its shadow, and the snow when it’s white.
i wrote of groping in the dark for my rosary, of lulling myself into sleep when sleep wouldn’t come. i wrote of summer rain. and the need for an emergency blanket, when it’s a day with a sky filled with clouds that demand to be watched, gulped, really, like a spoon of whipped cream.
i wrote of mama bird making her nest, and baby bird’s bumpy first flight.
i wrote of tucking a heart in my little boy’s pocket, sending him off to a school where the butterflies are not the sort a mama can net, and tuck in a jar.
i wrote of the firefly. and the tooth fairy. and saint nick.
i wrote of aching and worry, and falling in love.
i wrote of making a home and a garden, catching the glint of the sacred there in the dust, tilling it in the soil that sprouted the seed.
i wrote of birth, death and resurrection. and much of the mess, and the glory, in between.
i wrote, i believe, of all the things that most matter to me. and maybe to you. i do deeply hope so.
turns out i had something to say. and i said it.
so this is it, the end of a long year of writing. tomorrow we’ll look down the road, see what we’ll change, what we’ll keep. for now though, i want to hear lots and lots from all of you. you who pulled up a chair, once or twice, or maybe, God bless you, each day. i would love to hear why you pulled up a chair, and what you found when you got here. did this year of writing make a difference to you? are there any meanders that you remember without looking back at the archives?
before i go i want to say one more thing: thank you. with all of my heart. you who so loyally stood beside me—jcv, slj, lamcal, hh, carol, wm ulysses, bam2, wise one, susan, jan, emb, pjv, sosser, true, crd, claire. kd in nj, across the way, mbw, jpt, mem, dpm and becc, bdk in his various guises. vpk most of the time sent her comments straight to my email. but she was there, every day. i made friends here, friends who will last forever and ever. i am eternally blessed here at the place where the chairs are. and far and beyond.
this table is yours as much as it’s mine, you who poured out your brilliance day after day. thank you for making me wiser, braver, more true.
the danger of making a list is forgetting someone you love. my list is the ones who wrote back whole heartedly, often. or who simply inspired the heck out of me. and speaking of inspiration, to will and to teddy, my beautiful beautiful boys. will who launched me, who taught me the art of the picture, will who keeps me in stitches. and teddy who stole my heart at his birth and has never ever let go. i adore you. and if you ever wonder why, just pull up a chair. love, your mama
First off…………..I believe we all would like you to take a very deep and lingering curtsy, while we all stand and applaud you. Bravo! Bravo!Thank you for creating space b it in my heart or in my day to remind meto stop, look, listen and think. The entry that comes to mind without looking back was your Good Friday entry, to answer your question. Thank you Barbara for your diligence and words of wisdom, what a selflessendeavor you where on and we the readers have all benefited from your generous and gracious gift. thank YOU. Love, EMB
Hi Barb, There are so many things to say on the one year anniversary of your meander writings. I have LOVED your way with words since reading your first bylines in the Trib, after we first met when you were in J-school. However, I never planned to be a “regular” at this table. I started reading to be supportive of the endeavor. Very quickly though, I discovered myself thinking, “Wonder what Barb’s meander is today?” and I would read it, sometimes send a link to others, and many times comment. Then, I found myself asking, “I wonder what others have to say about Barb’s Meander today?” and I would look again at the same entry to read the comments–and wow, what a bunch of great writers in the bunch! Seeing the comments of others gave me pause about myself. I see that I don’t write what I FEEL as much as others, but I frame things in a more distant, thinking way. Maybe I am “afraid to go there” , to the feeling realm, myself, as I fear becoming a puddle of tears where I might never recover! I would love if thre could be a Table Party, where all of us could bring a dish for your real table, you would make coffee on your big stove, and we could meet in person–trying to guess who is who.Looking over each of your entries, I have a bunch of favorites:Feb 16th–Measuring Life in 8 MillimetersMay 4th–Voice at the TableMay 30–Rug CarniesSept 14th–The Page Most SplatteredSept 21–The Sins that Don’t Float AwayOct 1–Parallel LivesOct 22–Safe and Sound and TornI hope for another type of writing in your future, Barb–a memoir of your upbringing, fleshing out the suburban Irish Catholic household of a pack of boys and one girl. Thanks for sharing so much with me and others. I have appreciated all of it!
don’t stop, i bought a computer, and i love all your stories.
it’s okay if she stops a little, wiser one–it’s tough getting up at 5 every day. bam–BRAVO!!!!!!!!! you are the ultimate mountain goat and the ultimate poet. this year of meanderings and musings is an incredible achievement and an incredible legacy.
there is so much debate these days as to whether technology distances us or draws us closer to humanity and the lives of others. without a doubt, i thank bill gates, Al Gore for inventing the internet and most importantly dear bam for creating a sacred hearth for us to gather from all corners of this globe to ruminate on what it means to be alive.This has been a hard year for me in many ways, namely being very sleep deprived from work. Starting late last winter I was invited to sit down for awhile before falling off to sleep. I have said I want to write for so long and just have been oh so tired, yet sitting at the table for a few moments, I slowly found myself writing one word after another and it was so healing. My best dreams and sleep have come just moments after reflecting with all of you at the table. Bam you took the risk and made the commitment to be the gracious host, but unknowingly, we too began to practice with you the discipline of writing our stories together and to that I say thank you!A new year is about to begin and my sleep schedule will radically change as I have just accepted a day time job. I hope in this new year there will be new energy for me to write and reflect. You have inspired me to think about doing a similar practice for a year. I know this isn’t technically spam, yet it’s an invitation of sorts. On January 1st I hope to invite all of you to share “everdaysoup” with me. Is it all right that I am bringing a pot of soup over to your table at the moment? If so, I’d like to share in the sustenance of stories, bring your favorite spices and ingredients and together we will make a meal that we can share together. I still have to do the metaphorical grocery shopping and menu planning, but the first bowls of soup should be ready by the first of the year.thank you bam for breaking bread with us again and again.and here is my list of favorites, but i could back and read all the meanderings for the whole next year!nov 2 There at the Back of the Closetoct The Place Where Prayers Comesept 21 Sins That Won’t Float AwayAug 29 Heart to HeartApril 25 Of Lilacs and Pillowcases and Slow Last BreathsApril 6 Silence on a Day that darkensI knew a wise sage of a woman by the name of Gertrude. She died a few years back, but well into her eighties she would take the amtrak from Illinois all the way out to the North Cascades of WA. There she would spend her summers as the hosti at a retreat center. Instead of saying “may the peace of God be with you” during the Sunday Eucharist service, she would instead say “May the Spirit Disturb You.”BAM and to all others seated at the table, it has been rich and wonderful and my prayer and hope for all of you is that the Spirit will disturb you to be bold and curious in the coming year
dear beautiful slj, of course it’s not spam to open the lid on your soup kettle. it’s a heartfelt invitation and i am honored you’d give us all an incoming whiff. we’ll be there, spoons ready. pounding the table. i will be more than happy to pull up a chair there, to sip and to sup and to shlurp. there is nothing more thrilling than watching the words you and others of you spill. true wonder started a blog. it’s called true calling. check it out. (i need to go get the link, which i will; you’ll jaws will drop and you’ll probably drool). jcv found herself on the front page of the thinkingest section of the chicago tribune. wm ulysses should write a/could write a book or a tome or a volume of poetic thought and pure wisdom. but he’s up to his ears in wood and leather and spices and herbs. he is my renaissance friend. oh, yes he is. ah, but even those of you who love to read, more than to write, there will always be a place for you right close to the table. we feel your heart. we hear your wisdom. doesn’t matter, not at all, if it comes out in blurts or whole stanzas. some of the writingest souls i know won’t put more than a word–some not even that–on the internet. the beautiful thing here is that there are so many of us with something to say. and not everyone’s gift is the word. we make room for everyone here. and dear mr. mountain goat, so sorry to have woken you up so many mornings. for a boy who loves to sleep, you sure married the wrong lady. the one with no time for sleep meets the one who could sleep till next year. or maybe that’s the thing that makes us such a fine match. we are net sum of zero. eek. or, rather, zzzzzzzzz. over and out till i’m compelled to leap in again……oh, p.s., ms carol, fear not, we will indeed do some sort of a real life pull up a chair. i meant for it to be, like, tomorrow, but oh drat, you know how it goes………and besides some folk would need plane tickets. and a warning to get here on time……..
bam, i remember you sending me the link to this beautiful and wonderous site just about a year ago. every time i sit and read your melodious words it hits me deep inside, it touches me, it moves me, it inspires me, it helps me, it makes me feel so alive. thank you from the bottom of my heart. my favorite one was the one you wrote about you and your honey, the love you have for your man. i miss seeing you but i feel completely connected to you everytime i sit down to read your words. please, please, please continue to write.
the candle is lit…a woosh of breath…the smoke curls up and move into the atmosphere bring blessings to you and all who surround the table. Little did I know when MB suggested I “pull up a chair” that I would start on a wonderful journey inward and then outward. Thanks for your honest heart Bam, your lyrical writing and thought filled questions. All have taken me to places in my heart and soul I might never have ventured. This gratitude also goes to those who have shared the table because it is just as often that your comments have added side roads to that journey….onto a new year at the table…whatever shape that takes.
Wow — has it really been a year already??? (just checked the archive, yep indeed!) Well, B-R-A-V-O! Thanks for all you’ve so generously shared!
the chair has marked a steady easy tempo for me. a place to visit, sometimes to comment, often to return. i have been drawn deeper into thoughts when i chose to respond; writing on a blog is an act of thinking aloud, and it can indeed brings tears or howls of laughter amidst the clattering keys. but i was always grateful for the opportunity and place to express myself, and on certain occassions my comment would instigate a response or even a back-and-forth. the “chair” is an assembly of chairs. you have realized your goal, beautifully, and you have expanded our sense of community. for all those lonely cold mornings spent blogging, for the darn tenacity, and the sheer volume of thoughts, artfully wrapped and set forth, many many thank yous!!
brava! brava! brava! brave barbara anne. why do i return to the table? well, because you continue to set it. sometimes i run in and sneak a little sweet nibble without ever letting you know. other times i linger for a whole meal. be it in this form, or some other please continue to pound out your heart on that well-worn keypad. x0, laura
I have been dreading this day! I don’t want this table to disappear. For you have changed my life, bam, in so many tiny simple ways. You have skinned the knees of our souls, and then given us a band-aid that is simple healing grace. I have gotten scraped so many of those 264 days that it’s hard to keep count, but it was always a sanitive–a healing–a beginning of healing–scrape. Some of those scrapes: orange and chocolate brigade, the many tales of your lives in the soup kitchen, stratas, tales of deaths and near deaths, grace-filled or pain-filled. So many of the meanderings about your boys and how best to love them! After the scrape to my conscience came, inevitably, challenge and inspiration and renewal of spirit to the task of motherhood. I howled with laughter over ironing, the rare kitchen mishap, shortcuts in the kitchen which make one look like one is not using shortcuts. My heart ached with recognition over memories of your papa on film, life at your family’s table. I looked at nature in a new way, here in the city, and was over the moon with all the meanderings about the moon, cicadas, birds birds birds, recycled Christmas trees.You are a sharer but also a listener, a wonderful quiet listener who then responds so thoughtfully. You delight in community and conversation and have happily included all of us with our lumpy or ungainly or irrelevant contributions (and I’m not speaking of anyone else but myself, tablemates!). You have solicited recipes, ideas, and our own hearts from our bodies. I gained so much from all my fellow table sitters: recipes, laughs, good ideas, encouragement, good counsel. You folks are all awesome too.bam, your discipline and perseverance through dry and difficult spells fills me with awe and offers me a challenge. For it is truly in a daily discipline that learning, growth, beauty, and grace come.I could go on. But it’s dinner time and speaking of tables…..I must go prepare my actual one (whereas I’d rather go curl up and be somewhat forlorn).I second Carol: I insist on an actual table gathering!bam, if I didn’t say it already: I can no other answer make but thanks, again, and thanks.
you make me weep, jcv, for it is real this thing that we created in a virtual place. you and me who met over cyberwords. who turned it into a friendship that’s real, that has flesh, and tears, and joys, and gasped breath, and shouts of pure joy. as i wrote just recently to slj, when she came right back at me with words that sent me straight to the moon, when what she wrote felt as if it had slipped from my very own soul—an echo is the sound of your own soul coming back to you. only whatever i wrote then i am less articulately remembering now. jcv, you singularly have been the one who stayed close from the birth of this chair here. (the image that comes is four legs emerging in the thick of labor and delivery. egad. sometimes i wish there was a pause button on my head,) anyway, darling, through thick and through thin, your intellect, your precision in writing, your bare honesty have been my dear friends. the whole of you, really. this day is only a marking, not one to dread. i will somehow muster the strength and the stirrings within to keep on keeping on. i do though think we’ve spawned enough blogs-in-the-making to keep us filled, sated, monday through friday almost. we need one from you my friend. but first i’ll take the book. the book we will read and cry over and laugh over and marvel at madly. (how do you like all those dangling prepositions? it is the beauty of blogging, you get to make up and break a select few rules. for instance, caps. who needs ’em?) anyway, as i was saying in this thick-as-jam love note. you deserve some sort of medal of shiningest honor, for loyally, ever being the one who kept me from jumping out windows, being too lonely, worrying too much. and simply going nuts. you who takes breath away with the way that you think, live, feel, love, you my friend are the one who did plenty of skinning of my bumpy knees as well. i thank you. you took away breaths, and certainly certainly not only mine. as someone wise up there/down there (depending on vantage while typing this comment, or reading it later) wrote: it is the conversation that followed the meander that often lifted the table, four legs, off the ground……amen. back to my nest, up there in the branches. photo by will kamin, by the way….the same one that graced the meander the day of its birth, a spiraling then, up into the berry-thick branches……
BAM — what a legacy for your children, grandchildren, and so on (now there’s a concept). What a delicious slice of life you have offered me/us. I am so proud of my risk-taking, say-what- you -think-and-feel, seriously intentioned friend. For me and my mom–Of Lilacs & Pillowcases & Slow Last Breath, of course. So many beautiful photos (centerpieces, I guess), and opportunities to laugh out loud, chat, ponder and wonder around the table.
Dearest bam and friends at the table …What else can be said? I am amazed at the comments on this, the first anniversary of our incredible meeting place. One truly gifted woman that has blessed my life with her friendship, who graced my home with her presence, who inspires and amazes me on a daily basis, and many others that I’ve never met sowing into my life every day. I feel like I can call you my friends.My life is richer and fuller being a part of this gathering. You all have contributed to the daily dish … bam serves up something tasty, then some have salted, some peppered, some have sprinkled sugar and some have tossed in a dash of spice for good measure. bam, as I’ve said from Day One … this is my daily dose of wonderful. Keep it comin’ …
Mother,I cannot say I’ve diligently read each and every meandering. I suppose you could say I’ve lived many episodes accounted here at the table. Nevertheless, I will be sure to come back, maybe in a week, or a month, or a season, to read that which has been written. Not because I will forget what has taken place here in the big gray house on Maple. Nor because I intend to show my appreciation for your beautiful mothering by doing things like leaving a comment on each page of your blog or taking an extra helping of stew.I will return here because your words are dynamic. A simple glass heart given to a 1st grader might calm an anxious teenager the day before a big test. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could remind a father of the vitality of making food and fixing a home– with his own hands. Or maybe tales of a little boy writing will let an old cynical philosophy professor know that novels, sentences, words– even miniscule letters amongst a sea of over-complicated ideas–are divine gifts, given as part of the whole darn sloppy mess we endearingly call humanity.Beyond the wisdom it has directly shown me, this whole process of pulling up chairs has subtly revealed the steady, natural rhythms which sometimes effortlessly, and sometimes painstakingly, cradle our lives and hold them up. No matter what hour it is when I slide into the covers, leaving thoughts of Ivy Leagues, photographs, philosophies, faiths, social lives, and lost cell phones behind, I can count on another soul being awake as I saunter down the old, slightly creaky staircase at 6:40 every morning. Regardless of how uninspired I am left to feel after being subjected to big, bad NTHS, sparks of divine wisdom sit in the unassuming cove of a digital computer monitor. Whether I am springing out out bed to meet a new day with open arms, open thoughts, open feelings, or simply cursing that silly/cute little red Pottery Barn alarm clock, the sound of click-clacking keys will greet me as I slide in to a faded pair of Levis and that old shirt with the Gandhi quote.With more love then any occasional photo contribution to PUAC could ever express,Your son,Will
THANKS WIll for sharing your comment here! You have given us a slice of life, a meander, that Barb has not–the experience of awakening and alighting down the stairs to the tapping of your mother’s typewriter keys in the glow of a computer monitor–writing her self-assigned meander (Barb the Editor-in-Chief, as well as the writer) that she has labored over on our behalf.I should also mention that you are a darn good writer yourself–I guess we have learned from Barb’s nature meanders that apples don’t fall far from trees and that baby birds in nests learn to fly by watching their parents!Finally, watch your mailbox for a new shirt–size XL this time–with the Gandhi Quote: “Be the CHANGE you wish to see in THE WORLD”.
if you come back in a week, i might still be sitting here weeping. that sweet boy up above nearly awoke to the sound of his mother gulping for breath, in between cascades of tears, there this morning. oh, lord. for a whole year i write, and not for a minute do i get near the wisdom, the poetry, of the child i was so blessed to birth. it is the oddest invention, the blog ( a word that does turn my tummy, it’s so without soul, isn’t it?), and the art of blogging (whatever that is), but rarely before in history–in the art of writing, especially–has there been the possibility for public-private reflection so immediately. i now know the one thing i’d grab in a fire: the words up above, after of course the child who wrote them and his brother. i couldn’t help but think after finally settling the tears and the sobs that we are teaching our children when we don’t even know it. who ever knew that the sound of the keys carried through ceiling and floorboard, up to his pillow? (it is a drafty old house, but still….) and that they carried with him a truth louder than any old lesson i could try to impart.fitting that the t-shirt he alludes to, and carol spells out, pretty much says the truth of why i sat in the dark, and what he apparently made out in the shadows: be the change you seek in the world.if he learned, through the undying keystrokes, that this whole unpaid exercise, this daily devotion, really, was a curly-haired kook’s unswerving belief in the power to change the course of the river by gathering, dutifully, diligently, one smooth stone at a time, well, then, i just won a king’s ransom, and the lottery, too. the rest of what i have to say, i will say in private to the boy i so deeply love. one question: how in the heck did you get so wise, sweetheart?
i came to the table only very recently, but i am astonished and delighted by what i have found here. i just want to say that your own quest to write not around the edges of life, but right to heart of it has given me a new sense of faith in the importance of writing this stuff down. all of it. i worry sometimes too about saying to much, and whether anyone cares. but i know, deep down, the value of this kind of writing, and this kind of conversation, this kind of community. you’ve inspired a great many people, and i think i (another far off writer person) can count myself as one of them.
It’s Wednesday, but I came back to Tuesday’s table to catch up with the comments.I am speechless, words escape me … that boy blessed me beyond belief. Just wow.
pjv that’s the exact same thing I thought, and said (to his mama)…..speechless. It’s hard to shut me up, too.
congrats on a year of wonderful writing that has flown by in a flash! thank you for every word and the dedication to rise each morning and lay the table where we all pulled up a chair. you are an inspiration and a sister of my heart.
Babsy,Willie’s comment made me cry. He was 22 inches long with blazing blue eyes when I met him 14 and a half years ago. He couldn’t talk. How can he write, and think, like this now?Everyone’s comments are lovely and thoughtful. I cannot believe what you have done here. Perhaps the most exciting was to see you come out like this with all that you cared about. Coming here always made me think. Often I learned something new. You are a derring do with words. You spin magic. I hope for more, but want you not to be up at 5 every day. People here know you as a thinker, feeler, interpreter, and writer. I want to tell how I discovered you as an editor because I have such a fond memory attached to it:Barb and I decided to do a non-journalism project together. We co-edited an anthology for our synagogue and each of us had to write a few of the pieces in it. Each time I sent what I wrote to Barb, a great chew over would ensue. My pieces radically improved each time we did that. Barb’s editorial eye is razor sharp. I hadn’t known. But I so appreciated it; it’s a talent as rare as good writing. After the first anthology meeting, we divided the tasks, and we each operated from our own little computer/telephone pod empires. But at the end we decided to sit down together again to comb over the whole thing. We chose bam’s space. We had an anxious negotiation about who would be at the keyboard: we both connect our thinking to our fingers on the keys. We proceeded to dissect the words — bam on keyboard, I on drums, no, in a chair — the nuances of the words, the placement of the words, the correctness of the words, and the flow of the words. A few times, my observing eye took over and I reflected at the scene to an outsider of a darkening office (as I remember it, probably incorrectly) and two women debating and discussing little teeny points about the energies that certain words carry for instance — two word geeks digging the hell out of this opportunity. Few would have cared about this funny exercise, but we did. How often, in our busy lives, do we get to indulge our odd little niche passions with another just as passionate? I was in heaven. How many others, I wonder, have this fondness for words, and this energy to express. Is it more than we know and people don’t reveal? Congratulations, bam. You built the table. It is here now, to return to as the spirit moves. Jan