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The following is a chapter from the novel I've been working on for the past few years (Working Title: Across Time). The book is nowhere near complete. Where the stories are meant to be the warp and weft of a tapestry, they are still disjointed. I've still got a lot of weaving to do. Still, I wanted to share this chapter as it is at this point. It is a vignette, a small glimpse of this character's life. Enjoy...


The snow fell on Kelly’s shoulders as she walked quickly toward the factory. Her mind wandered to another place – another life, perhaps, where she was empowered to be herself, whatever that meant.

She really had no idea who she was anymore, did she? With a slight shake of her head, she rejected that line of thinking. A dead rabbit lay to the side of the road, a sudden victim of vehicular manslaughter. It was dusted with the powdered sugar snow. Like all April precipitation, it was soft and wet. Kelly’s jacket was soaked.

Pulling up her gloves, she shivered and turned her face toward the sky. ‘I love this chill on my face,’ she thought,’ but when I can feel it through my jacket, I can’t wait to get to work!’ The factory was actually an old wire mill. The company had been in that place for a very long time. The industrial revolution era building stood on the corner where two old roads came together in a dead end curve. Row after row of ancient brick buildings lined the sidewalks, cracked and worn by the feet of thousands of workers over the years. Not far away one could find two or three pubs and one pizza shop that had been serving the best hamburger pizza in town since the 1950’s. The unusual rectangular pies came in sizes all the way up to the size of a small dining table! It wasn’t often, though, that she got to enjoy any of these delights. If she was lucky, her husband took her to a diner close to their apartment where they got an old fashioned hand patted “hamburg,” as they called it in this small New England city, and a chocolate malted frappe.

She approached the dirty red brick walls of the wire mill. Although the bricks had the build-up of a hundred years’ smoke and dust, the outside was downright “spiffy” in comparison to the inside. The Floor Boys did sweep the hardwood floors at the end of each shift, but dust fell from the huge ceiling fans like the snow that fell from the sky. Kelly walked past the ancient open-caged freight elevator to the coat racks, where she set her books down on the floor, then doffed her thick winter jacket, and hung it on a hook. Crossing the floor to the time clock, she nodded at some of the first shift employees she passed along the way. Her husband would already be here, clocked in and watching from somewhere on the floor to be sure she was on time. She was careful not to look any of the male employees in the eye. She knew her husband might interpret even the slightest smile as a flirtation. Approaching the clock, she pulled her timecard from the rack and noted that she had only moments to spare. Pushing the card into the clock, she made sure it stamped, set it back into the rack, and headed toward the braider floor

Kelly’s job was to walk the floor checking the eighty-plus wire braiding machines for empty spools. The machines pulled bare wire through a center around which varying numbers of spools of thread spun very quickly, creating an insulation barrier around the wire. It was her task to notice as quickly as a braider stopped and to remove the empty spool, replacing it with a new one of the same color. That is, when they worked as they were meant to. Unfortunately, many times the braider just kept on running, twisting insulation around the wire short a strand. In this case, Kelly had to stop the machines, locate the point where the spool ran out, and begin the rethread at that point.

If the braiders always worked as they should, it would have been a simple task to stand back and watch for them to stop when the spools ran out. However, she had to keep walking steadily, pacing around the floor, watching and listening for the sound of a machine with one less strand or the silence of a stationary machine. It had taken her a few months to learn that sound, and to notice the difference in the patterns of threads that wove around the wires.

When a spool ran out, Kelly would stop the machine by pushing back the wide lever on the front. Taking another spool from the nearby supply, she removed the empty, tossed it in a bin, and placed the new spool in its place. Rethreading was tricky. She had to get the thread end around the wire, simultaneously starting the braider back up without catching her hand in the web that wove around the wire. Pop off the old spool, rethread the new. Wire cutters were her tool in trade. Rarely did she use them on wire; rather, they were meant to snip off thread where it often snapped while continuing to run.

Every afternoon five days a week Kelly clocked in for the second shift at the wire mill and began her nightly walk around the braider floor. It was a job she had never expected, and each time she stepped on the floor she felt the strange sense of butterflies that plagued her. She wasn’t a particularly brave person, after all, and fear gripped her every chance it got. It didn’t help that some of the stories told around the mill about workplace accidents were sometimes rather gruesome. She had once forgotten to tie her hair up into the signature ponytail and just about had a panic attack when she realized what she had done. One of the most oft repeated tales was one of a braider operator who had gotten her long locks caught in a braider, losing chunks of hair and scalp before someone was able to push in the lever to stop the braiding process. Kelly couldn’t help imagining the poor woman, dripping in her own blood like an extra in a B-horror film.

This day started out like any other. Kelly was always tired by the time she arrived on the floor. She had a five am wake-up call every morning to get ready for school and six hours of classes with homework in between left her ready to go home for the day. The walk from the bus to the factory was enough to wake her up at this time of year, though she was always tense in the anticipation of seeing her husband awake for the first time that day. Stepping into the first row of braiders, she breathed relief that he wasn’t there. Most likely he was working upstairs with the copper spoolers. Kelly immediately began the first walk-around of the day. Once she was into the rhythm of the machines, she allowed her mind to wander into the distance of imagined worlds. That was where the poetry was born.

It wasn’t until she was well into a reverie about a strong young woman making her own way in medieval Britain that she heard her husband calling her name. She had walked the circuit of eighty braiders, blindly doing her job for about two hours, and it was time for her first fifteen minute break. Though this was what they called a “sweat shop,” the unions in other factories had years ago worked toward requiring somewhat humane working conditions. At the sound of her name a second time, she quickly completed the spool change she was doing and turned to him. “I’m on my way!” she yelled, to be heard over the clacking of the braiders.

“You were late today!” He barked at her, a scowl marring the porcelain beauty of his ivory face. There were many women who would have committed murder to have his complexion and long eyelashes. The ethereal quality of his skin made it seem like paper, his violet eyes that had once seemed glorious were now hard and cruel. Shuddering, she shook her head.

“No, I was on time.” She whispered with a quake in her voice.

“Don’t contradict me!” His voice was flat, quiet. He didn’t want anyone else to hear the names he was prepared to call her.

They sat together in the break room while he berated her for arriving at work later than he thought she should. Silent tears wracked Kelly’s body as she shrunk low in her chair. His body was taut, as if he held back horses. She had long since learned to read the clues in the way he held himself. She knew now that if she said one word, he would have punched her without second thought. Other workers came into the room periodically, opening and closing the refrigerators. Some sat at tables nearby. If anyone noticed the demeanor of the couple in the corner, none gave indication.

Back on the job, Kelly allowed herself to vent silently. She was the only braider operator on the second shift, so the floor was hers. She stewed and worried, wondering if this was the way her life was intended to be lived for the endurance. Tears trailed her cheeks unchecked as she leaned into one of the machines, stopping the revolution of thread. It had run out, ages ago. The tiny path of missing thread wound almost to the top of the apparatus where the wire pulled through, fully insulated. She would have to carefully hold the single thread of the replacement spool up to the spot where it had broken, slowly start the machine, and watch as it was incorporated into the weave. Once it was repaired, she would snip off the little tail of thread where she held it at the top. It had to be seamless. After a few false starts, she got it, but not before her frustrations welled up within her until she could no longer hold them. She hated herself for the life she was living, for the choices she had made, and for the stupidity that she was convinced had caused her husband’s anger.

There was only one thing that relieved the frustration she felt during times like this. Snatching the wire cutters from her pocket, she clenched them into her fist and jabbed herself in the forearm, scraping upwards at an angle. She stood quietly then, watching the blood well up in the cut. It wasn’t nearly as deep as it could have been. Still, the blood filled the chasm in her epidermal layer, pooling at the entry point. She watched, feeling a strange sense of relief and wondering why it didn’t hurt. Perhaps nothing could physically hurt anymore. There was nothing steel-toed boots, fists, or spontaneous spousal body-slamming hadn’t already done.

It seemed to Kelly that she stood still watching her blood exit her body for hours, but in reality only seconds had passed. She began to feel a sting as the first drops ran down the curve of her forearm. Shaking herself into reality, she grabbed the corner of her work apron and wiped the drop away. Applying pressure through the dirty apron with the palm of her hand, she quickly walked to the ladies restroom, where she stood awhile longer, holding the pressure. Even after she washed the cut with soap and water, the blood seeped slightly through her sleeve. Later she would find a few sticky bandages and apply them, hiding the wound with her sweater. By the time she was back on the floor, three-quarters of the machines had come to full stop. Apathy had no effect on efficiency. She soon had them up and running again.

Another two hours of pacing, listening, stopping, threading, and doing it all over again. Kelly felt the churn in her stomach that meant she was getting hungry. “Getting” was not really the operative word. She was usually hungry long before now. Mornings brought yoga, hot tea, and toast. For lunch, she usually carried an apple and a tea bag for in her purse. It was simple enough to get an empty cup from the cafeteria, fill it with hot water, and brew a hot “cuppa.” In fact, if she was careful enough, she could make that teabag last through more than the one or two cups she usually drank in one sitting. The apple sated her for a while, but it had become a practice of hers to savor it as if it were an actual meal, cutting it into small pieces, eating slowly.

This meager austerity had little to do with a need for Kelly to lose weight or lack of financial means, though in some ways both were true. When she met her husband, Kelly had been a slip of a thing with a tiny waist. She had never been athletic, but she enjoyed running and climbing, which had kept her limber and fit. In the few years since they married, she had put on about 10 pounds, a fact which he never hesitated to point out. Recently, if she as much as looked at a second helping of potatoes, he would look at her with those hard eyes. Just the day before, he had told her as if in warning, “Fat people have a certain smell, you know. You can always tell when a fat person has been in the room.” Kelly was careful now about how much she ate. If she ate more than she thought she should, she had learned the art of purging.

The other reason for her paltry eating habits was her personal lack of money. All that she earned went to her husband, who paid the bills and put the excess in the bank. He controlled the shopping, though she had some input into the particulars of their grocery list. However, she never had any cash on hand. Thinking about this now, she recalled the time, not long after they had moved into their apartment together, when her husband gave her a five dollar bill and told her to pick up sandwiches at a local pub. The ham and cheese sandwiches with spicy brown mustard on rye were a specialty of the pub, and quite delicious. Kelly remembered how she had bounced out, anticipating the mouthwatering delicacy. When she paid for the sandwiches, on a whim she had also purchased a package of chewing gum. She stuffed a juicy stick of gum into her mouth, tossed the wrappers, and grabbed the bag with the sandwiches. Heading home, her heart soared. It was a gorgeous day, she was newly married, and she was going to have a great lunch with the man she loved.

By the end of the afternoon she was left bruised and bleeding because she had spent the twenty extra cents, then argued for her right to spend twenty of her own hard earned pennies. Now, Kelly carried no money unless she asked for it. Asking for it was a shameful thing, so she did very little of that.

Pondering the loss of her personal power – even her identity, Kelly walked the floor, trying to ignore the gnawing in her stomach. ‘Lunch will come soon enough,’ she thought to herself. Taking stock of the darkness outside the big, filthy windows, she knew it could not be much longer before her meal break. Somewhere on another floor, her husband was doing his job. He would be down when it was time. She kept walking, stopping machines, and trading out spools as the time drew on. Her stomach continued to gnaw, growling at her. She sang quietly, knowing the sound would be obliterated by the clacking of the braiders. As she rounded the back row, she came near an area where a mysterious day shift employee sat to supervise another aspect of the wire preparation process. As she approached, she thought about the woman who sat there. Kelly had met her only once at shift change. They had spoken, and Kelly had learned that this matronly woman in a flowered smock had been with the company for twenty years and was due to retire soon. That conversation stayed with Kelly, for the very thought of working in this old stale building day after day, month after month, for twenty solid years filled her with a dread she could not name. Each night as she passed the desk, Kelly had noticed a bowl filled with candy. Thinking of that candy now, Kelly salivated. Today, for the first time, she gave into temptation. She stopped next to the desk, looked surreptitiously about, and snatched a piece of the candy. It was a kind she had never seen before. She looked at the wrapping carefully. It was made of cellophane and was designed to look like a strawberry. Upon opening it, Kelly found a silver reflective wrapping around a red hard candy. She was so hungry by now, she thought she might drool! She popped the candy into her mouth. ‘Oh my!’ She thought, ‘it’s fantastic!’ How could this tiny piece of hard candy be so wonderful?

Now, Kelly had never been able to find out how many licks it took to get to the chocolate in the middle of the famous lollipop. True to form, she bit into the candy, expecting it to slide off her teeth a few times before she succeeded in breaking it in half. It didn’t happen as she thought it would. Instead, she bit right through the crunch and into the softest, most delicious flavor she had ever tasted. It was strawberry-like, but with a thick syrupy texture that coated the tongue. In that moment, Kelly felt that she had never tasted anything so delicious, nor could anything come close. She walked the floor for the next thirty minutes feeling an almost unearthly sense of bliss.

That euphoria was shattered when she turned from a braider she had just completed re-spooling to find her husband standing next to her. She jumped with a squeak. “Whoa, you scared me, babe!” She laughed. He was in no mood for laughter. “I’ve been standing here for two full minutes and you just now noticed me? What are you doing, daydreaming about your lover?” He was growling. She turned to look up at him.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, of course I’m not joking. What other reason could there be for you not to know your own husband was standing next to you? You might as well get all that out of your mind. Nobody else would want you. You’ve gotten so fat. I’m surprised you can walk around this place.”

Her eyes widened. “Why are you talking to me like that? What did I do now?”

He grabbed her by the forearm. She almost pulled back in pain, for it was the one she’d cut. Years of self restraint kept her from flinching. “You know perfectly well what you’ve done! I heard them talking about you as you walked in!”

“Who?” She was incredulous. What was he talking about?

“The men in shipping, of course! You know, you pass them on the dock! You’re the one who struts by them every afternoon just in time for them to see you. You’re such a slut! I don’t know why you think they would want you, you fat bitch!”

Kelly was stunned. She couldn’t remember any men talking about her. She came in the only door employees were allowed to use, always in a rush because she had to clock in by three in the afternoon and her bus dropped her off blocks away at two-thirty.

“But, babe, I just…”

He cut her off. “Nothing. Say nothing.”

“But, I…”

His hand rose, half way. She closed her mouth. “Now see what you almost made me do!” he growled between clenched teeth. “I don’t want to hear a word out of you.”

Acquiescing, she followed him to the coat rack, and on to the loading dock, past the old elevator she had passed on the way in. They sat together on the empty dock, for it was dark now and the shipping department was closed. She shivered in the chill. The snow had stopped, but the skies were opaque with heavy clouds, promising more precipitation before the end of the shift. He handed her the paper lunch sack he had grabbed from the break room refrigerator. She opened it, taking out a thermos of grape drink and two sandwiches made with peanut butter and marshmallow spread on white bread. They ate in silence. He glowered at her while she shook from distress and cold. She would much rather have eaten lunch in the warm break room. The weather outside matched too closely the way she felt inside.

After lunch, as they separated to go to their respective job sites, Kelly chanced a furtive glance at her husband. He looked at her with burning eyes and turned abruptly away.

Kelly spent the rest of her shift considering the meaning of working in this dismal place being married to this hateful man for twenty more years. How does she do it? She wondered, thinking about the first shift woman, about to retire. The same place, the same path, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. It was enough to make a woman give up. More than once during that evening, she discovered her fingers toying with the wire cutters that hung from her belt loop and envisioning pools of blood at her feet. I wonder what he would do then, she thought, moving from braider to braider doing her job.

(c) 2017

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No one could mistake this blog for an influential resource. I don’t follow the stats here, but I suspect the readership is pretty low. I’m not a known blogger, but I do keep a handful of different blogs going because I love writing when I have time. Also, like most everyone else, I like to share my thoughts about things that are important to me. I have blogs on spirituality, poetry, food and creativity, and this blog. This particular blog is where I come with thoughts that don’t quite fit into the themes of the others, although once in awhile the themes could cross over.

Today, I want to discuss a book I recently read. The collection of short stories, Spent Saints & Other Stories, was written by Brian Jabas Smith.

In full disclosure, Smith and I have been acquaintances since 1986, when I was a wanna-be rock promoter and Brian was the singer in one of my favorite bands of the time,
Gentlemen Afterdark. I was living in an alternative art gallery called 11 East Ashland (named for its address off Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix) and coordinating poetry readings when I became “Suzi plus One” on the GAD guest list. Plus One was always my good friend and partner in the pursuit of the rock lifestyle, K. The two of us were an enigma in the music “scene” of the mid-eighties. We liked and worked with bands in both the heavy metal/glam genres and the alternative/punk scene. We mixed our metaphors and our clothing styles. We met Henry Rollins at an afterhours club called “Crash” and described ourselves as “Heavy Metal Valley Thrash Punkers of America, like fer shure, F’n A.”

We liked what we liked and maybe we were confused because we were both probably suffering from PTSD from our equally violent first marriages that we had escaped just months before we met each other through a mutual friend.

Today it’s not unusual to find that a person can enjoy a range of artists from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello or Metallica to the Ramones or even Nuclear Death to Thai Pink. At the time, though, we were the strange ones in cut up black tee shirts and spandex, multi-colored asymmetrical haircuts, and painted faces. We loved it. We yearned for more. We promoted shows. We organized shows.

We went to every show we could, especially GAD shows, wherever they took place. A good many of them at the once famous
Mason Jar.

Later, returning to Phoenix after a brief foray in California and a lifetime becoming almost normal in Texas, I returned to the poetry thing and discovered Brian Smith’s new band,
Beat Angels. I went to see them once or twice. Over time, I lost track of Beat Angels, of the music scene, and of Brian Smith.

Until one day, I saw an article in the
Phoenix New Times. It was a memorial for GAD member Kevin Pate, written by Brian Smith. Beautifully written, heartfelt, and honest; I knew then that Brian was a writer. He had been a staff writer for the New Times, but I had missed that somehow.

The next time I heard of Brian, he was writing for the Detroit
Metro Times; then he was suddenly back in Arizona, in Tucson, writing for the Tucson Weekly. Glorious articles about the people he meets, the things that make people who they are; the hard times and the joys of the people who live hard lives. Real people; tough people. Brian knows them. Brian is them.

Spent Saints is proof that Brian Smith knows the hard times and isn’t afraid to admit it.

I’ve lived an entire lifetime denying the experiences that this book dredges up in me. Oh, I don’t mean literally denying them as if someone suspected me of lining up white powders on mirrors and questioned me. No, I mean denying as in simply leaving those experiences out of the stories I tell about my life. I’m fortunate, you see, because those experiences didn‘t take me as deeply into the dark places that they take so many. Not because I was any better, any different; I once saw myself on a precipice between dark and light, and teetering, wanted to choose the dark.

Instead, for a long time, I simply didn’t choose. Walking on that dangerous ledge, fearful of falling, I kept myself safe only by the fortune of noncommittal. That ledge kept me safe from the immolation of addiction; it also kept me from the attainment of worldly success.

One can only recognize what has saved them or held them back from the perspective of hindsight. Many never achieve such insight. It’s taken me years of introspection to realize that the life I lived was mine by choice. It took Brian Smith’s stories of Spent Saints to awaken me to the value of that life.

Spent Saints
should come with a trigger warning or two. It’s been years since I had a personal interaction with mind altering substances. It’s not as if I’ve forgotten that part of my life; in fact it now informs me in my day job working in behavioral health. Yet, as a peer, I see those experiences from a distance; it has no effect on my vagus nerve. Fight or flight is not triggered.

These stories, though. These stories are an emic experience; reading them is like being there. Again.

I attended a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe a couple of weeks ago. Singer Cait Brennan performed. Barry Smith played his haunting original violin music, and Brian Jabas Smith read a story from Spent Saints.

Those who know me well know that I am a survivor of 2nd & 3rd degree burns on 60% of my body. It was 50 years ago, but the memory is deep. I can’t watch people on fire, not even pretend. Nobody thinks to warn about it.

The story Brian read at Changing Hands? It involved fire. It jarred me to the bone.

And when I read the rest of the stories, so did they.

If you want to understand some of the people who struggle with addiction, with poverty, with depression…read this book. It’s a tough read, but worth every word.

You can purchase the book from the publisher, Ridgeway Press,
here.

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When we go to a funeral or a memorial service, what do we mourn, besides those who have gone?

We cry at memorial services, even when we have not known the one who died very well, sometimes even if we have not known them at all.

Do we mourn the loss of this one beautiful life, even when we have not known the one who lived it?

Do we mourn for the emptiness left in the lives of others, though we may not know them intimately?

Is it possible, just a little bit, that we mourn something of ourselves that we have lost?

Faced with death, do we see our own mortality, and regret opportunities lost, the choice that was not made, the love that was not sought?

Faced with the mortality of others, do we grasp at our faithless moments, recalling times we could have done a good thing, but did nothing?

Hearing the story of the life of one who has died told by those who have known and loved that person best, we notice the times in their lives where they made good choices, took right turns, lived completely and utterly faithfully.

Yet even they must have taken a moment at a funeral somewhere along the line to think, “I should have done that. I should have been that kind of person.”

They were not perfect in this life, nor shall we be. Not yet.

I wonder, if the person we mourn were standing in the room with us, would they know how many caring hearts their life inspires?

I wonder, do they know that the best of them inspires the best in us?

Certainly, I know that one day, I want my life to inspire others.

I want them cry at my memorial, whether they know me or not; not because funerals are sad, or that my life is so pitiful.

I hope I can live my life from this day forward in such a way that only goodness is inspired by the story my loved ones tell.
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I think perhaps one of things I am most thankful for in this "First World" I live in is hot water. When I am feeling achy, when I feel sick, even when I feel down, in fact when I'm at all discomobulated, I find that there is no place so comforting as a hot bubble bath.

A bath is a spiritual experience for me. Light a candle, possibly an incense, whisper a prayer, and step into the hot suds. Slide down into the delicious warmth, rest my head on the back of the tub, close my eyes and sink deep into the water, a different kind of baptism.

We all have little home rituals that cleanse us, change us, shift us into a new perspectives. For me, it can be something as simple as lighting a candle, sitting in silence. The best, though, is the ritual of the bath.
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I wrote the following in answer to a prompt for an Edx class I'm taking called Spirituality and Sensuality: Sacred Objects in Religious Life. The prompt was about what makes a place/space sacred.

{9} The Gallery: Poetry, Art, and Sacred Space

{9} The Gallery is a small open door along Phoenix's Grand Avenue - that's the busy inner-city adjunct to US Highway 60, which connects the East Coast of Virginia to Arizona-just-short-of-Quartzite half an hour east of California. Walking into {9} on the second Friday of the month, you'll find half the floor covered by white wooden chairs surrounded by paintings and other visual art by local artists.

In the back, past the bathroom, you'll find the counter. Purchase your coffee or tea, hot or cold, and peruse the shop. You might discover the perfect gift to buy - a chapbook, a greeting card, or perhaps a print created by locals. Take your time, but be ready to sit as the hosts for the evening's event arrive; the chairs will fill quickly. Settle in, sip your tea, be ready to listen. Maybe even be ready to witness. Will you share?

As I listened to Stephen Cramer's poem, "What We Do” for about the 4th time, I realized that indeed, {9} is a sacred space. It is sacred for a number of reasons, and the objects within reflect those reasons. The walls are adorned by interpretations of the world by artists who dare to apply their visions to canvas or other media. Aficionados of art both dark and light make this a sacred place. They come and they hold open their mouths at the wonder and the audacity of each new interpretation of a world that is both beautiful and ugly.

Fans of refreshment in this desert place find an oasis within which to rest weary bones and feast upon the artwork and the baked goods brought in from the restaurant down the street. {9} is a sacred space each hour that it is open for the interaction between human and human creation. Tonight, though - tonight it is made even more sacred for the sounds that will be aroused here.

On the second Friday of each month, the poetry series "Caffeine Corridor" meets at {9} The Gallery. Poets from across Arizona make the pilgrimage to hear the words of one or two featured writers and to share their own works at the open reading. This is a mixed reading; traditional poets and slam poets gather together; there is no contest, only open acceptance for the diverse nature of the spoken word.

While {9} The Gallery is made sacred by the presence of creativity, art, and the interaction of people with that art, these Friday night readings bring a great depth of holiness to the place. You see, the Caffeine Corridor series has had a number of homes over the years. It has met in coffeehouses and tea houses as well as in other galleries.

It isn't the presence of visual art that makes the place sacred, any more than the presence of a cross, statue, or other iconography makes a church building sacred. Even the poetry itself does not make the place particularly sacred, for to read a poem by oneself is different than to hear it read aloud. It is the community - the body of artists - that makes it sacred. These nights, when poets gather to partake of a communion of words, are more sacred than a gallery full of paintings but devoid of observers.

Each place brings a different kind of experience into that sacredness. Like the Orisha, who "rides" each dancer or each drum differently, the experience of poets is different in different surroundings. Some coffeehouses bring with them the sound of cappuccino machines, others are in alleyways beneath the flight path of the local airport. The experience differs depending upon the combination of poets - is the one who takes suggested word combinations in an attempt at humor present? Is the one who taps on the bongo while reciting her words in the mix? What about the one who speaks each piece from a different space on the floor or the poets whose words seem to be jumbles of unrelated syllables or the ones whose poems come in perfect iambic pentameter?

These are the variables that make the place where poets gather sacred. These, and respect and admiration shared through the snapping of fingers, the clapping of hands, or the loud, raucous laughter of listeners sharing the experience together.

(c) 29 March 2015

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Toward the end of 2014, I picked up my old-school journal and started writing. The last time I wrote in the book I picked up was mid-2010. It had been more than four years since I’d taken pen in hand to write my thoughts and dreams into a book!

I’m not sure why I did it. In fact, it seems like I was driven to it for a day or more before I finally did. When I did, what I discovered was amazing.

There’s something magickal about writing in cursive into books. The words flow from mind and heart through hand and pen and spill onto the pages like aqua vitae, water of life. The flow can open doors that have closed in our lives and allows our spirits to move out of stasis.

I had been shutting down, curling up, becoming stagnant, or even worse. The evening I picked up my pen and dug that journal out of a drawer was the beginning of a kind of rebirth. I blogged about it at my pastor’s blog at Practicing Perfection when I realized how much I need regular time in a liminal space and discovered that a journal can be that space, sometimes.

A journal is a place where the heart and mind meet the physical. It interprets dreams into potential realities. It is a diary…a day planner…a prayer book…a spell book. It is a place to ponder, and I have been pondering. I am ready to begin exploring new meanings out of old awareness.

I am ready to renew my relationship with some of my old gods and goddesses; the archetypes of my heritage and my psyche. Soon, I will be sharing some of the thoughts I have on the relationship between myself, the Christ, and the ancient ones.

When I started blogging at this site, I was a full-on practicing Pagan with an affinity for the god of my ancestors called Thor. Note my screen name: Thunarsdottir. Daughter of Thor. I have never been a polytheist, but rather a panentheist who considers what most people call “God” to be “All That Is.” Process Theology was the first theological understanding that explained what I believe about God in any way that made sense. I was thrilled to learn about it when I went to seminary.

I always thought of the “mythological” gods and goddesses as cultural expressions of a given culture’s understanding of “All That Is.” On a personal level, I interpret them in a rather Jungian way.

Now, I find myself considering what this can mean for me as an Inter-Spiritual Priest. How does Thor walk with Jesus? I have no doubt that he does.  How can that awareness help others in their spiritual walks?  I have no doubt that it can.

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Lately, I've been realizing how much time I've lost in being busy.  My children have grown up while I was busy.  My mother passed away while I was busy.  My friends and I have grown apart while I was busy.  My siblings and I have grown older while I was busy.

I seek to simplify my life.  Quite awhile back, I wrote about the idea of minimalism, and whether or not I could do it.  I decided I probably couldn't become a complete minimalist, but that I was working on cutting back on things.  I'm still cutting back on things.  I still have way more than I need.  I need to cut back on more than just things.

I need to whittle away at my busy-ness, too.

Now, I'm seeking time to work on that.  It seems ironic, I suppose, to need time to gain time...to be less busy.  Yet, that's exactly what I need.  I need to have time to know what I'm doing.  I need time to take steps to arrange my calendar better.  I just need a little time to make more time.

I'm seeking a few moment's silence every once in awhile so I can figure out where it is I'm careening forward towards.

I know at my age many are putting on the breaks, expecting a quiet retirement, but I'm simply not ready for that. I'm heading somewhere carrying my late-earned BA and even later-earned M.Div., grasping my Ordination papers along with those and hoping they somehow weave together into a magic carpet flying to somewhere that I can make a difference. I can't stop scheduling things like weddings and writing deadlines even though I'm busy trying to earn a living at a lovely stopping off point while I earn the first unit of my Clinical Pastoral Education.

Out of all of this, what will come?

When it comes, will it be too late?
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A Wanna-Be Hippie Reasseses Her Stance

“This ain’t the Garden of Eden/There ain’t no angels above/Things ain’t what they used to be/And this ain’t the Summer of Love”
– Blue Oyster Cult, 1975

For my birthday this year, my daughter Betsy gave me a copy of Hippie by Barry Miles. This book is interesting and filled with information about the multitude of movements that happened in America and Britain from 1965 to 1971. It was a tumultuous, terrible, deadly, inspired, mystical, and hopeful time.

During it all, I was in my formative years, watching the war and the riots on television. I am of the first generation to grow up with television for my whole life, yet I had no idea what kind of Happenings were going on.


The Summer of Love and Woodstock are but idealistic dreams of my teen years, something I thought I would have wanted to be part of if only I’d known about them at the time. Of course, I learned over time that there were dark secrets hidden under the floorboards of these utopian dreams.

In fact, there were so many things happening during those years, there is no way to extricate them from one another. The flower children of San Francisco, the poets and musicians of New York, the rock bands of Los Angeles, and the London Underground emerged separately yet are undeniably connected. Woven through these growing pains of youth were the horrors of war, near and far.

The Vietnam War, the confrontations between police and protestors and hippies, the race riots, rape…all of these were violently wrapped around visions of hope represented by flowers and bright colors of youth at a Be-In.

In this book, Miles brings all these aspects of the times together, giving the reader an overview of a decade, illustrated with photographs, newspaper clips, advertisements, album covers, and posters. It seems to have everything…almost. One Amazon reviewer laments the lack of any mention of the Jesus Freaks. Now, the Jesus Freaks are one group I recall from my own experience. It does seem a shame that they are missing from mention, at least by name. Peter Max doesn’t even get a sentence. I, however, notice something more important missing.

Throughout the book, we read of the great poets and artists who influenced the various movements or who became a part of them. Of all the poets, artists, and musicians who are mentioned, only a handful of them are women. Two female singers stand out – Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. Singer Marianne Faithful gets a nod, but only as a girlfriend. One female visual artist is mentioned by name – Yoko Ono. Perhaps she was more than just the “girl who broke up the Beatles” after all! Finally, there is not one mention of a female poet in the book. Not one.

I’ve been pondering the reason behind this. Does it mean that there were no excellent female poets of the time? Of course it doesn’t. Denise Levertov, who attended a 1963 conference with Ginsberg, was writing during these times. Anne Waldman broke out in the 1960’s, and is considered an integral part of the latter Beat movement. Lenore Kandel’s book of erotic poetry, entitled The Love Book, was deemed pornographic and was censored in 1966. Adrienne Rich was an anti-war activist and feminist, and is one of the most highly read poets of the 20th century. Susan Polis Schutz was a peace activist and poet.

These are hardly the only female poets who were actively writing and involved in the movements of the 1960’s. Besides poets, of course, there were many amazing writers of all ilk including singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. This book mentions these two in passing. Of course, Miles would be remiss if he didn’t discuss William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and their influence on what was to become the Hippie generation. However, mention of other writers who emerged from the scene, like Maya Angelou and Beatrice Sparks would have been welcome.

Of course, I do understand that it would be impossible to include everyone who created or was created by this volatile era. It became more explosive as the decade wore on. Hippies made way for Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies. Violence on campuses and in the streets, Charles Manson’s “Family” sneaking into homes and killing people in hopes of starting a race war…the sixties started with violence and ended with violence. Of all the female writers and activists of the era, Miles chose to dedicate a full page to only one – Valerie Solaris, the founder and sole member of S.C.U.M. (sometimes said to stand for “Society for Cutting Up Men,” though Solaris denied it). Solaris was a radical lesbian feminist whose manifesto was published in The Berkeley Barb in 1968. What made her – and her manifesto – important was an act of violence. In 1968, she shot and wounded artist Andy Warhol, who had agreed to produce a play she wrote and promptly lost it. She demanded payment, so he hired her to act in a film for which he paid her $25, according to information I found on the internet. When another publisher, Maurice Girodias, promised to publish her work, but retain all rights, she felt that they were all conspiring to steal her work. Solaris also shot art critic Mario Amaya, who happened to be with Warhol at the time. She would have taken a shot at Girodias as well, but he was out of town.

Interestingly, I had never heard of Valerie Solanas until reading this book. Yet her angry anti-male manifesto reflects the darkest frustrations of women emerging from a June-and-Ward Clever, Ozzie-and-Harriet fantasy. It is fodder for conversation – what did she say of value? Was anything she wrote intrinsic to the women’s liberation movement? While Solanas’ attempted murder of Warhol (some call it an assassination attempt) may not be as “important” an event as the Manson murders, it seems that it has some value in find a real understanding of the times…and a true understanding of those times is something I need.

I have lived most of my life imagining the Hippie life as a utopian, perpetually cool, idealistic commune of sunshine and flowers. I wished I’d been there, that I had not been only 11 the year of Woodstock. It’s been a wistful fantasy, wishing I’d been to anti-war protests and Be-Ins, instead of the Happenings of my own life, which seemed to pale in comparison. The view that I’ve had has been skewed, in spite of having met many who not only lived it, but were willing to admit it. Some of them, very young, had romanticized the Haight-Ashbury scene and went there, flowers in their hair. Yet, by the Summer of Love, the coolest street corner in America had begun to degenerate into a seamy district of junkies and teenage prostitutes.

I met a lot of once-upon-a-time Hippies later, when I lived my own Happening at Venice Beach in 1987, twenty years after the Summer of Love. Many of them were disillusioned, flowers wilted, innocence lost. One was an eternal space cadet, insisting he was Jesus, and not like “Jesus is all of us,” but the man himself. One had blown his mind so far that he sat, nodding knowingly, as another young woman told him she was not ready to go live “at Jerry’s place up north,” because she and her friend were so busy creating a new solar system, and were having trouble with one of the planets. Some, addicted and stuck like an old vinyl of Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” slept along the piers of Santa Monica, next to wounded Vietnam Vets with PTSD, spending their days begging for quarters to buy the next bottle of whatever they drank or a dime bag of smack.

There were those who had truly idealistic ideas for creating a better world. The ones who were honestly dedicated to caring for the planet and one another grew up and opened natural food stores, grocery co-ops, neighborhood gardens. Across the United States, spiritually oriented dreamers who had been in some way part of the Hippie movement helped usher in the New Age. 1987 was the year of the “Harmonic Convergence.” It was part of my Happening, and many of those with whom I connected during that time truly dreamed of a better world. The Age of Aquarius, as had been predicted, would be the dawning of peace, love, and harmony.

Yet like the Hippie era twenty years before, the New Age movement of the 1980’s was only one aspect of a complicated time. Alongside the spiritual growth and outreach, the recognition of pluralism, and the move toward acceptance of cultural and socio-religious differences emerged new kinds of music, fashion, and art. New names wove in with the old, eventually supplanting all but the biggest, most popular bands from the early days. Punk, Glam, New-Wave, and Heavy Metal…and that’s where I came in.

Timothy Leary’s popular 1960’s mantra, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” transformed into Ian Drury’s “Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll.” Looking back over these subcultures of youth and young adulthood, certain similarities stand out to me. These mantras mean the same thing, down under. Beneath the psychedelic tie-dye patterns, the Victorian velvet beauty of both boys and girls. Like dust-bunnies under John and Yoko’s Peace bed, beneath the spandex, big hair, eyeliner, and Aqua Net® runs a theme of patriarchy, power, and rape culture.

As I read through Miles’ book I noticed that all the photographs of Flower Girls and Hippie Chicks depicted thin, fresh-faced young women. This tells me that these women mattered more to the chroniclers of the era. In the book, women other than the handful of singers and artists mentioned were girlfriends or wives, most were unnamed. One wonders if the photographers bothered to ask the names of most of the women. This was a time that is often referred to as the “Sexual Revolution.” One wonders whose revolution it really was. The Gurus of psychedelics touted group sex and called it enlightenment. They gathered women around them like harems. Yet, rarely did they seem to listen to the thoughts and ideas of women. The only poetry deemed worth reading or listening to was written by men, the same men who either hated women or loved too many of them without ever really loving any of them.

Twenty years later, male musicians and artists slept with stoned underage groupies, dated exotic dancers, and those who were married rarely shared that information. Drugs developed for medicinal purposes began to emerge as “date rape drugs.” Pop songs by females or groups headed by females glamorized dressing for casual sex at the expense of the woman’s own identity. For instance, in 1984 the pop band Animotion sang “Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?” MTV showed the average size, regular girl that she wasn’t sexy enough. Only the tall and thin could pull off skin-tight spandex pants and a crop top with spike heels.

On the other hand, there were a number of strong female singer/songwriters who faced the challenges of relationships head on. Singers like Pat Benatar, Annie Lennox, and Aimee Mann dealt with domestic abuse and independence. Yet even in the telling of such stories it was evident that girls’ art was somehow judged as beneath that of the boys’. Aimee Mann and her band ‘Til Tuesday sang “Voices Carry,” a song that to me spoke of verbal abuse. In the video for “Voices Carry,” the male partner confronts the female about her time rehearsing, calling her music a “little hobby.” Those of us who had lived in domestic abuse found solace in the songs and videos that showed us the strength of the woman who was “walking…walking out the door!” In the world of Heavy Metal, female artists were rare. Included in the handful were Maxine and Roxy Petrucci of Vixen and Lita Ford, who kept her nails short, played lead guitar and eventually sang with Ozzie Osborne. On the lighter side, Cyndi Lauper wanted to have fun, and Madonna introduced blatant sexuality, materialism, and brilliant marketing to girls for generations to come.

From my vantage point of thirty years out, I can see the blazing path that the women of the 80’s rock world opened for the females of today, yet back under the belly of the beast, I recognize manipulation of the market by the powers that be, whoever they are. Heavy Metal is still dominated by males, lyrics are often hateful and patronizing (“I like your pants around your feet”), and when a female fronts the band, it’s most often symphonic rock, and she is supplementary to an all male band. It’s still news when a woman is the lead guitarist or the band is all female. Generally, it seems as if girls and women continue to be marketing tools, one night stands, play things to be used and put away or left behind when the game is done.

It is little different in the worlds of poetry and art. There are thousands of fabulous female poets, some of whom are quite famous, yet still the names I hear dropped as the greats are Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, now with the addition of Bukowski, all of whom have been accused of misogyny, and perhaps rightly so. While this doesn’t take away from their talents, it certainly gives me pause, particularly in a world where I have heard the words, “girl poetry is not worth reading” come from the lips of lesser writers.

After all these reflections, I come back to the question that brought me here. Although Barry Miles coffee table book Hippie is a fairly exhaustive exposé of the youth movements of the mid to late 1960’s and very early 1970’s, there is little reference to the work done by females, particularly in the areas of poetry and visual art. Is it simply because a crowd of 7,000 would not fill a hall to hear the works of female poets at the time, as they did for William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and a host of others, all of whom were male?

We’ve come a long way since the 1960’s in many ways. Yet in the area of the arts, where talent and appeal should trump gender, there are still few females who come to mind as “household names.” One would think that there has been progress, when the whole country mourned the recent passing of poet and author Maya Angelou. One would think…until one finds that there are some who would detract from the value of her work by debating – just days after her death – her right to call herself “Doctor” based on having received around 30 honorary degrees over her lifetime.

By the way, I am a girl poet. I have written a lot of crap that’s not worth reading. I’ve also written a few things that are worth reading. Pretty much like any other writer, even the men.

In Mind

There's in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured and smelling of
apples or grass. She wears

a utopian smock or shift, her hair
is light brown and smooth, and she

is kind and very clean without
ostentation-

but she has
no imagination

And there's a
turbulent moon-ridden girl

or old woman, or both,
dressed in opals and rags, feathers

and torn taffeta,
who knows strange songs

but she is not kind.

Denise Levertov, 1964
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I decided to go ahead and sign up with Linked In.  Not sure why, but for some reason it seemed expedient at the time.  I became a member of a Linked In group for "Spiritual Writers."  The first post I read was one man's question about how, as a spiritual writer, one reaches atheists.   This one question led to a thread that was unbelievably argumentative between some rather more conservative Christian writers, some Buddhists and Universalists, and a couple of Christians who are more pluralistically minded.  It sure veered away from the original question!  Nevertheless, after reading through all the arguments, tedious as some became, I wanted to post my answer to the original question.  Once I did, I realized that what I had to say was at the core of my personal understanding of the Gospels and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It really has nothing to do with what religious tradition we choose to grow in.  It explains why I could consider myself a believer and follower of Jesus even when I walked with Wiccans and Pagans.  It explains my discomfort when faced with the multitudinous arguments about which "religion" is the best one or the right one or the only True one.  I really believe that religion is a construct of humanity. It can be a useful tool for spiritual growth and service to humankind.  A particular religion is not, however, the only way to realize our connection to the Creator and to one another.  Within Christianity, no particular denomination is the only way to follow Christ.  While some denominations stress the sacrifice of Jesus and blood atonement, others stress the resurrection of the Christ and the hope of eternal life in God, and yet others stress the teachings of Jesus in light of social justice.  Are any of them fully wrong?  Are any of them fullly right?  Are any of them any more right than other teachings that are parallel to those of Jesus?  These are rhetorical questions, by the way...my own thoughts as I struggle with the foundational structure of my own chosen denomination, the Gospels, Paul's writings and all the things I have learned of other belief systems in other cultures and the shifting understanding of Spirituality and "God" as something that transcends all understanding and all structure.  Anyway...this was meant to be a simple introduction to my sharing of the comment I made on the post.  So, here it is:

I have come to believe that while the so-called "Great Commission," recorded as being said by Jesus (but not called by that title in the texts) to preach his Gospel (i.e., the good news that it is possible to find the "kingdom of God" in this life and there is hope for all in the transcendence of death etc., etc.) and to make disciples in all the world DOES NOT mean to bash people over the head by proselytizing our particular understanding of what has come to be known as "Christianity." I believe that He meant for the Apostles and the disciples to teach others to live as Jesus lived and to follow the ONE commandment that He gave: to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we just followed that commandment, all other commandments would be followed by default. Not only would we be an example of Christlike living, but we would change the world. Jesus also said that whomever is not against Him is for Him (Mark 9:40). Therefore, it would behoove those who find their spirit enlivened by one of the many forms of Christianity to simply live as Jesus taught, and stop making enemies for Him. The more "atheists" and others are beat over the head with judgment by those who call themselves "Christian," the more they will choose another path, be it a "spiritual" path or not. Whichever it is, they will grow in antipathy against Jesus, all because His so-called followers cannot live the life He taught them to live.


Therefore, just write with your heart and live by your faith. All else will fall into place.


That's just my view of it, of course.

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I recently read William E. Connolly’s book Pluralism, in which he introduces ideas that challenge time as a linear succession of specific events that are fixed in history.  Connolly proposes that memory and anticipation are linked to the perception of time.  His ideas are drawn from the philosophy of Henri Bergson, who proposed something to the effect that time and duration can only be perceived through intuition.  “Duration,” Connolly writes, “is this rapid flow back and forth between several layers of past and future anticipation as a perception.”[1]  In a given moment, a memory might be called up, and in the reconsidering of the event, the future might be different than it might have been had the memory not been dredged up.  The way Connolly puts is that “Duration is the flow of time as becoming.  It is waves of memory protracted into a present unfolding toward an altered future.”[2]

These ideas are not new to me.  Until the past few years, I had not heard of process theology, but many years ago, I read Stewart Edward White’s The Unobstructed Universe and Jane Roberts’ The Seth Materials, as well as a number of other “mystical” texts that explained time in a non-linear fashion.  Time is not static, but is fluid.  The past is affected by the present, and the course of the future can be changed.  This isn’t something tangible, as if one could physically go to the past and change the future à la Back to the Future; rather, it is a spiritual endeavor.  It is a construct of memory and perception.  Consider this personal example:  a female graduate student is writing a final paper while her spouse of less than a year plays guitar in another room.  The music being played was written some twenty years before, when the two were friends, married to other people.  In hearing the music, the student is virtually transported to the time in the past when she first heard it.  She reassesses the memory, for now the music that was played in the past has a new connection to the present, and the future is thus changed because there is a new emotional response associated with the original time when she first heard the music.

Burgson wrote his papers on time, duration, and free will in the 19th century.  He was not alone in his thinking.  As I readdress this line of thought, I discover connections between Burgson and the Golden Dawn, mysticism, theosophy, and me.  In my little bit of research, I discovered something that sparked a memory.  I vividly recalled reading a book when I was in my late 20’s by someone named Maitland.  It was a book about Isis Mysteries.  I understood little, but it was old, and it occurred to me that perhaps the Maitland was related to me somehow.  I have always heard that everyone named Maitland or Lauderdale were related, and Maitland was my mother’s maiden name.  Sitting at my computer from the vantage point of 2012, I was transported to a small room on Venice Boulevard, just a block from the boardwalk at Venice Beach, curled up on a mattress, cup of tea beside, reading this ancient book that I had borrowed.  I felt the cloth binding, inhaled the musty scent of yellowed pages.  I turned the pages, hardly understanding the archaic language of 19th century occultism.  I closed the book, and it was gone.  I had given it back to its owner, determined to find a copy I could have for my own so I could decipher the puzzles of this mysterious Maitland.

For a moment I sat balanced on a wall between the 21st century and my own past.  I sensed that time had changed and though a mystery was solved, a new one had been created to take its place.  Edward Maitland was a writer, humanitarian and a hermetic mystic.  He is somehow, though distantly and thinly I’m sure, related to me.  What does this knowledge mean?  Is my future somehow altered by the visit to my past?  Perhaps it is, at some level.  I am certainly not a different person because of it; but I have no doubt that I am changed, ever so slightly, by the introduction of this new information.  When I, the graduate student, was transported back to a moment when I first met my husband under circumstances that could not have foreshadowed our marriage so many years later, I knew that something changed.  There was a new emotion attached to the song that hearkened back to the first time I heard it.  That emotion, of course, was the love that I feel for my husband today.  Now that the memory of that very first time is imbued with the emotion from today, I can never go back to the original experience.  It is new, it is different, and it changed everything.

Time is not a dimension.  It is a becoming. Each memory becomes a new moment. Each moment, we become something new.  Each day becomes a new expectation, and each thought becomes a new reality.  Standing once again on the border between times, I am aware of my becoming as a reality filled with wonder and awe, helping others to find their way into a new eternity.  I expect it.  I am becoming.  I am being.  I am.



[1] William E. Connolly, Pluralism, (Duke University Press:  Durham and London, 2005) 101

[2] Ibid, 102


The Tower

Apr. 25th, 2012 02:43 pm
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In my Wiccan/Pagan past, I read tarot cards for friends, and at one time was even a "Telephone Psychic" using the Mythic Tarot deck to answer people's questions. Earlier this year, at the beginning of Lent, I began to think of The Tower.  You see, the symbolism of the card is about life changing: breaking down old ways of seeing things and interpreting events.  It's about realizing that something drastic has to happen sometimes before we can move on.  I think that the time people spend in prayer at Lent is about that very thing.  As we look into ourselves and see how we can actually change the way we respond to the world physiologically because of the way we respond psychically (or emotionally or mentally or whatever other non-physical word you feel most comfortable with), we tear down our old walls.  We allow ourselves to flow out of the tumbling bricks.  The Tower is surrounded by a moat of stagnant waters.  When the bricks fall and the gate crashes down, the moat cracks and the waters return to the greater waters, becoming something alive again.  We are all finding new ways of being alive.



As I write this, I can't help but think of its appropriateness for Lent.  It matters not that most "Christians" don't think the Tarot is "appropriate."  This card is all about Lent.  It's all about sacrifice and resurrection.  And each of us, as we seek to learn about ourselves and how we can help others with the things that we learn here are undergoing a time of sacrifice, splaying open our hearts and laying them out for all to see.  After that, what can there be, but resurrection?

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I light no candles today.  I will celebrate with family and friends; I will smile and laugh as I help hand out Easter baskets at the community party at the church.  These things are temporal, they are of this world.  Though I will be fully present at these events, I must not forget that today is a day of darkness.  Christ has descended into the land of the dead.  He has not yet risen into this world.  I need to remember what life was like before Christ.  For me.  For us all.



Taken literally or figuratively, the story of Christ is the story of triumph over spiritual death, over the attitudes of those who would destroy my happiness and my hope – even if that be me.  Stories of dying and rising gods have given hope to people throughout history; the Egyptians had Osiris, the Sumerians had Innana, the Greeks had Persephone.  Each of these stories reminds us that there is a time of darkness before dawn; someone must overcome the powers of death that there might be new life.





For me, Jesus is so much more than these stories, for he walked this earth teaching his followers to live as He did, revealing the Image of God in the Love that He both lived and died for.  The story of Jesus’ life shows us that there are things worth dying for, and they are not the things of this world, but the restoration of the Image of God in our hearts and our souls.  His life is an example of the life God desires for us – a life of servanthood and giving; a life of standing for what is right; a life of sharing God’s Love with all.  His life reveals to us that though it is a simple life, it is not an easy life.  In the end, however, it is a life worth living.



Today is a reminder that the darkness must be embraced and lived through before new life can break through into a new day.  Tomorrow we will remember that though our Master Teacher Jesus died, he died that the Christ might be revealed to the world.  He died that the Holy Spirit might be known to those who accept It.  He died to show us that there was more to life than the temporal desires of our bodies.



Tomorrow, I will light the candles.

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The following piece is an article I wrote for the May, 2007 issue of the "Gold Canyon Ledger."  It's dandelion time again, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you.  Enjoy...

In Deference to Dandelions

We live in a schizophrenic world. It is impossible to reach the end of any day without the need to multi-task, to pile duty upon responsibility. On the one hand, we are bombarded by media messages that we are not good enough if we don’t achieve a certain level of financial success, weight loss or a wrinkle-free existence. On the other hand, we are reminded almost daily that we should “stop and smell the roses.”  Often, we are left frazzled and confused – when are we to smell these roses, and more importantly, where are we to find them?  Many of us are bemused by the assertion that we have access to said roses when we can’t even leave the freeway of daily life long enough to fill the tank with the gas we’re working so hard to afford. Who has time to water the roses?  Mine died a week after I put them in the ground.  Roses are accessible to a privileged few. Perhaps the rest of us need a different metaphor.

I
contend that we should consider the dandelion. I once heard a woman named Zsuzanna (Z.) Budapest say that the dandelion should be the official flower of the women’s spiritual movement. Like the women who struggled to gain a voice, this buttery beauty is often misunderstood. While my friend Z. was concerned with the spiritual plight of disenfranchised women, I think that the dandelion is a great symbol for the people – both male and female – who bring an organic, natural and constant beauty into a world that is in perpetual flux.



Lovers of lush lawns often believe that the dapper dandelion is a weed. Those who wistfully wish for the verdant velvet of grass beneath their bare toes are sometimes disturbed by the punctuation of yellow-heads. I, on the other hand, love them.  The dandelion is not a desert plant, but neither are the imported water-guzzling lawns she likes to populate. No matter where the dandelion is transplanted, she takes hold with vigor.  To the aficionado of well-groomed lawns and patio furniture upon close-cropped grass, the dandelion is an enemy. It is a plant to be contended with, killed or otherwise dispersed until the next riot of yellow amasses against the establishment of landscaped perfection.

Unlike the rose, the dandelion has no thorns.  It is smooth and simple, never to be distrusted. Dandelions will grow anyplace.  Quietly, without the assistance of human hands, they flourish with little bravado, but much notice. Like those of us who work hard for a living, those who handle the tasks that some folks may not even realize must be done, the dandelion is a survivor. They cannot be stopped.  For every dandelion killed, a thousand others float upon the wind. A generation may lose ground, but the species continues uninhibited.  Dandelions are free. They need no one to plant them, to nurture them or to force them into propagation. When their time comes, they dance upon the wind and toss their children to the earth, where soils blanket them with love.

Dandelions are loving siblings. Their roots are not too deep to accept change.  Underground, they hold hands, extending their reach even to the outer circle.  There are no homeless dandelions, no friendless yellow-tops.  Dandelions are nurturing.  We can eat them.  They are gift from Mother Earth.  Even as they reach to one another beneath the rich, cool soil, they reach to us.  They can be wine, they can be salad.  They smell nice and their brilliant gold will brighten up the day like a drop of sunshine fallen to the earth.

Dandelions.  Like them, we must be flexible and open to change.  Like them, we must hold hands and extend our friendship to one another.  Like them, we must dance upon the wind and toss our loving to the world, dedicate our children to God’s good green earth.  Like them, we must accept the nurturing of God, so that we may learn to nurture our own and others, even as they do.  Dandelions.  They should be the newest symbol of Hope.

DAN-

DELIONS

the dandelion

is yellow, is soft

like butter on your chin

she is the fluffy thing you can

hold in your hands on any summer

day.  And when she is done, she

will send out little angels to float

like clouds upon the warm

and gentle winds.  Dande-

l

i

o

n

.

s

h

e

is our sister.

                                                                                                                                           Poem © March 1991

                                                                                                                                           Suzanne Jacobson

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Last semester, I took a wonderful online class called "Christian Spiritualities across the Ages."  At the end of all the reading and reflection, I wished that it would have been possible for all of us to get together and discuss the readings over a good meal.  I suspect we'd be talking long enough to shut down the restaurant.  Over the semester, we went through a mini-time-machine, meeting many mystics along the way.  As I wrote the final reflection, I envisioned us as a group called "Bill and Ted," who just had an "Excellent Adventure" gathering up mystics from the past.  I thought, what if we could, like Bill and Ted, hop into a phone booth at the Circle K and go back and get our favorite Christian Mystic?  Who would each of us pick?  When we gathered back at the mall, who would be with us?

At the end of my reflection, I just had to thank my classmates - my sisters and brothers - for sharing that Excellent Adventure with me.  And I especially thanked our professor, Andy, for being our Rufus.  It WAS Excellent!

Across the semester...Across the Ages...I seemed to find a common thread between all the spiritualities, no matter how different they might have seemed on the surface.  I even found a piece of that thread in John Calvin.  I certainly found it in our Little Sister Therese of Lisieux; I found it in Origen and Hadewijch and even in Hildegard.  That thread, of course, is the Holy Spirit.  It is God.  All of these people have sought to understand who Christ is - and who they are in relation to Christ.  They have sought to find their identity in the universe, and they found it in God.  So many of them seem to me to be describing the same thing; the same kind of experience.  It's just that because of their cultural framework, their historical social location and their understanding of how the world works, the way one describes the experience is often very different from the way another describes it.   Many of us have had some kind of experience that led us to desire to immerse ourselves in the awareness of God; but t
he way I describe it is very different from the way you describe it. 

Although the class I took was restricted to Christian mystics, I can’t help but consider how the mystical experience in other traditions is similar in many ways.  As I begin reading for a new class with Andy called “Your Brain on God,” I am discovering that spiritual experiences within many traditions or outside of religious tradition altogether may manifest in similar neurological responses.  It poses interesting possibilities to ponder.

In the meantime, I decided that if I could go back in time and invite an ancient mystic to hang out with me for awhile, I'd get Brigid.  Why?  Because like me, Brigid straddles the thin line between Christianity and Paganism.  Because she and I could collaborate on a cool God-poem…and because she could provide the beer...

Who would you bring back?

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I have this vision of God in which God is not something separate that creates separate individual creatures.  In my vision, God is a River, rushing and rumbling at the surface and flowing thick, steady and swiftly in the depths.  The River is flowing toward some unknowable Ultimate, which is also God, reaching a delta and flowing into that Ultimate as if it were an Ocean.  The waters are not silent; from them comes a neverending song beyond beautiful; the sound of nature, the sound of breath, the sound of creation.  In the waters of the River there exist all possibilities of sentient life, all possibilities of past, present and future, and these manifest as creatures in time and space, like rocks that break the rush of the water, displacing the River for a time.  These creatures - human and otherwise - do not exist separate from the River, but are wading in the Water.  They seem to be static - but it's an illusion - when they are done poking their heads out of the water, they will resume the eternal flow of the River toward the Ocean.  Many - perhaps most - of the creatures are unaware of the River - their feet are deep in the undercurrent where it's dark and they cannot see.  The River seems to beat against them, the rapids frighten them.  Some of the creatures, however, begin to recognize the River.  They want no longer to displace the Waters, but to flow with them.  They hear the song that resonates from the depths of the Ocean - they long to be part of it - to return to the Waters from whence they came. 

These who desire to cross the delta into the eternal Ocean will submerge themselves in the River. They let go of the concept of separateness.  They become the River.  They flow swiftly and actively toward the Ocean, and when they have reached the Ocean, they are immersed in the very Is-ness of God.

I am a manifestation of possibilities; a blockage in the flow of the River that is God.  Even my describable concepts of God are manifestations that block the eternal flow; the more I struggle to name and describe what God is, the more I block the flow of God that surrounds me.  When I let go of concepts, God is free to flow through me.  When I am "empty" of preconceived notions of God and of life, I am a cup ready for new tea; a chalice prepared for new wine; and when I am filled with God, I am not simply a conduit for the flow of God, I am part of the flow of God.  I am the River; I am eternal.
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Occupying Bethlehem

Joseph and Mary had walked a long way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.  No matter what time of year it really was, we know that it was a dark night and the city was filled with strangers.  Aliens.  The inns were full and the innkeepers were turning away latecomers.  Each year, when we hear this story, we imagine that Joseph and Mary were the only couple seeking shelter that night.  We picture them walking door to door along lonely streets, searching for one place where they could stop for the night.  “Silent Night,” we call it.  But, I wonder…was it really silent?  Were the streets really empty of all but this one couple?

I find myself wondering as I wander through this Christmastide about all those others who must have been turned away.  Joseph and Mary weren’t turned away because they had no money.  According to tradition, Joseph was a skilled tradesman; humble he may have been, but it is unlikely that he was poor.  No…scripture is clear that they were turned away because “there was no room” (Luke 2:7).  There was no room because “All the world” was called to the homes of their ancestors to be counted.  Generations of children of Bethlehem were returning because of the decree for a census.  Surely, there were others who were left without a place to stay that night.  Surely, Joseph and Mary walked by others camped along the roads – men, women, entire families gathered around fires or huddled together in bedrolls to keep warm on a cold desert night.  Among them, it is certain that there were those who were poor.  Certainly, among those who gathered in Bethlehem that night, there must have many who were discontent with having to be there; angry for the inconvenience thrust upon them by a Roman Emperor and carried out by a Roman Governor.

When Mary met with Elizabeth a few months before, she echoed the words of Hannah with her song of freedom and hope for the oppressed.  “He has put down the mighty from their thrones;” she sang, “and exalted those of low degree” (Luke 1:52).  Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, prophesied that his child, John, would be a prophet, going before the Lord who would “give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:70).  These are words of hope for a people who labored under the oppressive rule of an Empire.  These words reveal the need of the Hebrew people for relief from the burden of supporting the rich at the expense of the poor.

They worked hard for their income, only to pay high taxes to support the opulent lives of the Roman rich, sometimes unable to provide for those where were ill and handicapped.  Those who could not work had no choice but to sit on street corners and byways, begging for a few coins in order to feed themselves or their families.  How different were these people from those who today cannot afford health care for themselves or their loved ones?  How different from those who are unable to find work and find little to help them through the dark times?

When Joseph and Mary finally found shelter, it may have been in a barn among the animals; a place where there would be shelter from the weather and perhaps a little privacy for Mary to give birth to her baby.  We really don’t know if they were sent there by a kind innkeeper or if they simply slipped into the warmest place they could find.  They may have simply stayed in a crowded home among relatives, where there was not a bed left to lay a baby down to sleep.  Scripture does not provide these details – everything we think we know comes from years of oral tradition and more recent depictions in books and film.  We don’t know if Mary, Joseph and Jesus were the only people who laid their heads in the straw during their stay in Bethlehem, or if there were others who spent their nights throughout the time of the census sleeping someplace nearby.  Perhaps others shared the same space where the beautiful new baby slept in a food trough or perhaps they rolled out blankets on a hillside.  Whichever it was, whoever was not able to find a room to stay in camped out for the duration of the census.  How long must it have taken for the Romans to count their subjects and calculate how much money could be made?  How long must it have taken for the oppressor to count the oppressed so they might assess what threat there might be during a revolt?

Scripture tells us that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for purification according to the Law of Moses, which is about 40 days after the birth of the child.  Did they return to Nazareth first?  It seems unlikely to me.  Jerusalem was only about six miles from Bethlehem – but 65 from Nazareth.  Their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem had been an 80 mile trek, and had taken anywhere from four days to a week.  It’s unlikely they went home to Nazareth before heading the Jerusalem.  It seems more likely that they would have stayed in Bethlehem awhile, either because of the time it would take to respond to the Emperor’s decree or to allow Mary to recuperate – or both.

No matter where Mary and Joseph stayed – no matter how long they stayed – I am certain that there was conversation around the reason they were in Bethlehem in the first place.  Was Joseph discontented that he had to bring his very pregnant bride on such a long and arduous trip along dangerous roads just so the Romans would know how many Jews they had under their thumbs?  Was Mary upset that though she carried the Light of Hope within, the poor, the ill and the suffering were forced to take a costly and likely unhealthy trip?

The Hebrew people outnumbered the Romans, yet the Romans and their appointed cronies most certainly held the bulk of the wealth and power.  There must have been rumblings among the people gathered in camps along the roads of Bethlehem and in the homes where generations gathered during this time.  Such rumblings, when heard of by the Romans and their supporters, must have stricken a little fear in their hearts.  The scriptural tale of the Wise Men’s visit to Herod and Herod’s subsequent decree to kill all male children born at the time of Jesus’ birth illustrates this fear.  Did the Jewish leaders who conspired with Rome hear of the gathering of Shepherds and the news of Angels?  Did they fear the people more because their voices were being heard by the likes of Wise Men from afar?  Did they hear scraps of news out of context and misinformation contrived to keep them on the side of the Empire and to look upon their own people with derision?

It wasn’t over with Jesus’ birth; the camps at Bethlehem broke up after the end of the census, but the poor and the hungry still gathered at street corners, begging.  We know that many anti-Roman leaders rose out of the crowds to fight for freedom.  We know how Elizabeth’s son John grew up and began to gather together groups of followers as he awaited the leadership of his cousin, Jesus; and we know how the story of the beautiful baby boy in the manger’s life among the people ends.  He became a rabble rouser and a freedom fighter.  He dared to model radical love for his people.  He performed miracles; he served the poor, he healed the sick, he taught women, men and youth alike, he loved the children and he spent time alone with God.  He spoke out against tyranny and oppression of all kinds, and he turned over the moneychanger’s table at the temple.  He died for the truth and in his living and in his death, he provided the highest example of living an honest life that has ever been.

When Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem, the city was under the control of the occupying Roman army.  The Hebrew people were forced to gather in the streets to meet the demands of an Empire.  Jesus was born among the displaced people of Israel; he grew up understanding that whatever peace they had in their lives was at the expense of the people and under the control of the Roman leadership.  He grew up to stand up for those who were bent under the burden of governmental control and the demands of the rich.  About a week before he died, Jesus led his disciples into Jerusalem.  He was accompanied by his followers – not only the twelve apostles, but a much larger group of those who heard what he had to say, who had seen his miracles and had been shown that it is possible to love your neighbor, including the tax collector and the Samaritan.  The group that Jesus led into Jerusalem Occupied that city from the day they entered until after his death.  They dispersed into smaller groups; they feared for their lives and some even denied knowing him.  But on the day they entered, the very people who had once been forced to Occupy Bethlehem chose to Occupy Jerusalem.

This Christmastide, I choose to Occupy Bethlehem.  I choose to recognize a Bethlehem that was not so silent, but that was filled with the cacophony of people who gathered against their will, believing that one day they would be set free of tyranny and oppression.  I choose to hear the laughter of those who found peace in the hope they had for the future.  And for a moment, I choose to hear the “Silent Night” of Bethlehem.  I choose to hear that eternal silence that comes just after a new baby is born, when everyone holds their breath…

…and the sigh of relief and the awakened hope when they hear the joyous sound of the baby’s cry…
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What is the nature of Love?  Is this not the crux of our spiritual pursuits?  Not the question of having love or being loved in the popular way of romantic love, but Love itself?  Is it something that overcomes even the thoughts that keep us focused on ourselves?  That thought, upon awakening, that encourages us to curl back up and go back to sleep rather than drive to the food bank to volunteer?  When we roll over once, then pop up and go, despite wanting to stay abed?  Is that Love?

Is it Love to sit in conversation with the homeless man, who is really quite educated and rather intelligent, not just placating him, but really listening?  Or is it Love when  you sit in a group with four women who don't speak English, only understanding a few words here and there, but smiling when they do and hugging when  you or they leave?

Is it Love to lie quietly, listening to my husband...listening to him breathe, and wondering?

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I've explored my migraines in relation to spirituality in this blog before.  (See "Beautiful Tunnel Vision" at http://thunarsdottir.livejournal.com/8624.html).  Today, I want to explore what happened with my migraine this past Tuesday.  I was in Claremont at the Claremont School of Theology Convocation and the celebrations of two great new beginnings:  the launch of te first interfaith university, Claremont Lincoln University and the addition of the Jain community to the consortium that is CLU.  I had awakened with a migraine.  I took ibuprofen, but of course it made no dent in the pain.  I wanted to be at the celebrations, so I went with trepidation and sat down in a seat toward the back of the theatre.  As I sat there, I discovered something that was later reinforced during an in-class meditation.  Part of this discovery was the awareness that I have had the same experience many times before...without realizing that something special was happening.

I closed my eyes.  I allowed my pain to wash over me, like water.  It filled my head, it broke free of the boundaries of my brain, it seeped through my skin.  I felt my face tingling, and began to feel as though I were One with everything and everyone around me.  The pain was no longer present.  I could hear the voices of speakers, the chattering of those who spoke around me and the breathing of those closest to me.  I was aware that I had a body, but though I was grounded to it; rooted in it, I was not bound by it.  I was part of the River that is all things, and the River was Eternal.  The River was God.  This sensation continued as long as I was able to remain in that place.

When I had to attend to the tasks of daily living - walking, interacting, writing - the pain returned and I was close to debilitated.  After the events, I went to my class, where I experienced this same beautiful sensation again, but for a much shorter time.  Once the class was over, I went to my room and lay on the bed.  I allowed this to happen once again as I relaxed my body and drifted slowly into sleep.  Flat on my back, I sensed that I was floating in the River....

When I woke later, the migraine was gone and I was refreshed.

Questions must be pondered....is pain a threshold to liminality?  Is crossing this threshold a doorway to healing?  Is there a way to use this experience therapeutically in the service of others?  I wonder...
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Well, I have a confession to make. Before I make this confession, my feminist friends might want to brace themselves.  At the very least, they might want to sit down.  You see, my confession is that I actually like being "Suzy Homemaker."  I do.  I like to wash dishes by hand, hang clean clothes on the line, sweep and mop the floors and do the hand mending.  I even like to do the ironing.  That's where this blog begins, actually; with the ironing.  Today I spent about two hours ironing my boyfriend's shirts and slacks, along with some items of my own that seemed to be perpetually wrinkled.  Now, it isn't as if I've never ironed before. I'm sure my children will attest to having seen me iron an item or two on the run.  What they won't recall seeing me do is stand for two hours ironing a stack of clothes.  It isn't that I've avoided the task, however. It's just that I haven't felt that I had the time to devote to it.  I haven't had the impetus to do it.  So why now?  What makes the difference between "doing the ironing" and grabbing something and running a hot iron across it as I get ready for work?

One of the things I like about ironing - like washing dishes - is that it is a time for meditation.  The repetitive movements of ironing are soothing.  My mind is free to review the activities of the day, to seek meaning or to look into my motivations.  Today, I heard two sermons.  One was a short homily on a Gospel by the priest at my boyfriend's Catholic church.  The other was a sermon by one of the pastors at my United Methodist church.  The priest discussed the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45, 46).  "What is important to you?" He asked. "What would you die for?"  He asked us to consider what was most important to our lives as we seek Jesus. What would we sacrifice something for?  The United Methodist pastor asked us to ponder the same thing.  He reminded us that to see what we valued, we must look to where we spend our time and our money.  There, he told us, is where we would discover what is important to us. 

As I ironed today, I thought about these things.  I know that for me, the most important thing in life is our relationship to one other.  I believe that this is what Jesus is talking about when he talks about the kingdom of heaven - the space between us, filled with the Holy Spirit, is where we will find God.  Of course, we don't seek God so much as we hear God and respond to that call.  When I hear God's call, when I open my heart, I discover love.  I find that my "pearl of great price" is the love I have for my children, for my boyfriend, for my siblings and parents, for my friends, for my coworkers, and even for all those others who are God's children. This is what I would sacrifice for.  Love.  In that, I find the difference between dashing about doing what needs to be done as I head to the next task and stopping for a couple of hours to iron shirts, sew curtains, cook a full meal or simply sit and talk about an episode of "Dr. Who" with my son.  The difference is love.

As we were getting ready for church this morning, my boyfriend discovered that his nice slacks needed ironing.  He set them aside and selected another pair. Later in the day, I decided to iron them when I ironed something for myself to wear to work tomorrow. I realized, as I gathered these things together, that many of the shirts in the closet were a bit wrinkled.  Perhaps it's the fact that we hang the clothes on the line; today's fabrics do well when taken quickly out of a hot dryer and placed on a hanger. Those taken from the line, though they smell much fresher, are prone to wrinkles. I decided to iron them. Now, he didn't expect me to iron them.  I'm pretty sure he's perfectly capable of ironing them himself.  I'm equally sure he's amenable to doing it himself.  After all, he washes dishes, cooks dinner, and washes laundry and hangs it on the line without me even asking him to do so. It needed to be done, so I did it.  I discovered, too, that there is a greater depth to this difference.

When I was married to my first husband, an experience I wrote about in my book "Phoenix from the Ashes,"* it was expected that I would iron, along with all the other so-called "women's work."  After awhile it became clear that although it was my "job" to do these things (as well as work outside the home), I was unable to complete any of these tasks to my husband's satisfaction.  No matter what I did, it was never good enough.  It became not only an undesireable chore, but even a form of torture to do these things.  This, combined with the expectations of a woman who was a teen in the post-feminist-movement 1970's, made it inevitable that I would become averse to doing them.  Yet, I did them.  I did them because I was afraid that if I did not, my husband would not love me.  There's the crux of the matter.  It was about relationship, but it was not a healthy approach to either the relationship or the task. 

As I ironed shirts today, slowly and with a bit of OCD-like perfectionism (I'm never quite satisfied that I've gotten all the wrinkles out), I realized not only why I was doing the ironing, but also why I liked it.  Yes, it's like washing the dishes or cooking a good meal - in the concentration comes a zen-like state in which I can ponder the deep meaning of life; yet there is more.  In that state, I am not only focused on the task at hand.  I am also focused on the people for whom I am completing the task.  They are the people I love.  They are my pearl of great price.  For them, I will gladly and lovingly give my time, my money and my skills.  For them, I will give whatever it takes to share my love with them.

There is a great difference between doing the ironing because I am afraid I won't be loved and doing the ironing because I love.



*"Phoenix from the Ashes" is available to be read online for free at:  http://www.issuu.com/sbjacobson


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I've been trying to downsize the collection of … Well, let’s just be honest … the collection of crap that I’ve had around my house for a long time now. Each time I had someone living with me and they moved out, I would toss away stuff that I hadn’t used during their tenure in my home. Sometime last year, I began a concerted effort to be rid of stuff. I sorted and tossed, donated and gave away stuff. Lots of stuff. And I still had stuff. Lots of stuff. Earlier this year, after losing 50 pounds, I finally got rid of a ton of clothing. This may seem like hyperbole – and I suppose it is if you must take it literally. Nevertheless, it was a lot. I donated anything that was still usable and tossed probably an equal amount of items that weren’t worth passing on. Now, my closet is more realistic. I can wear most of what I have, and whenever I try something on and discover it’s not fitting the same as before…I get rid of it. I may need more clothing when this is all over, but I am determined that when I finish my weight loss, I will donate everything I have now and resupply with clothing that meets the same standards as my food and beauty products – Vegan friendly, cruelty free, fair trade, and lasting quality. That means that I won’t be purchasing an inordinate amount of items.


Recently, I’ve continued my quest toward simplification, and I’m finding it difficult to believe that I still have so much…crap. I’m discovering the need to harden my heart to certain things – there is no reason why I should keep multiple copies of old newspapers, funeral bulletins or other items of sentimental value. I don’t need every single thing a child wrote on during their primary years. Just a few special pieces will suffice. As difficult as those things are, they aren’t nearly as tough for me as disposing of books.


Books have been an addiction of mine for as long as I can remember. I have old books, probably worth nothing monetarily, but they smell awesome. I love the smell of old books. As a matter of fact, if you look back far enough, you’ll find that I’ve written a blog about that very thing. I can’t go into the “Friends of the Library” section of the library or the book section of the local thrift store without taking my time searching the shelves for treasures. So…when it became obvious that I have become overrun by books to the point where space is a premium, I knew I had a
challenge. I had to sort through the books and decide what to give away. I am proud to share that I did sort out four boxes of books to pass on to others. The sad thing is that I know I have to continue this process, sorting and weeding, until I only have books that will be useful to me. 


Tonight, I finished clearing out a box of mixed crap. I ended up with half a trash bag filled with debris and a few piles of items to be put away. I also ended up with a couple of small piles of items for continued sorting. From the box to the dresser, from the dresser to the cabinet, from the cabinet to the donation bags…eventually, it will be cleared out. I wonder, though…will I ever reach the point where it can be called “minimal?” Do I really want to go that far? I admire my friends online who have declared themselves Minimalist and seem to have rejected involvement in media-driven capitalism. I admire them because they are true to their convictions. I seek to live according to my convictions so faithfully. I fall short, I know, but I also know that each day that I live I can strive to learn to live more honestly than I did the day before.


I may not ever reach the point of absolute Minimalism. However, I can strive for simplicity, book by book. After all, do I really NEED ten Bibles?


 

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