Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I will persist in blogging, though the hour is late and I am tired from the effort of being pleasant and thoughtful and entertaining all day. The fluorescent light overhead is twitching, or perhaps it's me that's twitching.

Lately, my days begin with a prayer, a prayer that is thought, not spoken, while lying face down in bed, head under the pillow at 6:25 a.m. "Send me a good day, God. Send me a good day."

What makes it a good day? When I feel reasonably good about the work I've done, reasonably hopeful that I can go on doing it, reasonably satisfied that I am a force for good in the world. A good day is one where I have avoided slipping sideways or falling face forward into a mucky depression, a mudhole with sides that collapse around me, a hole that cannot be gotten out of without a good night's sleep and some detachment from the things that trouble me.

"This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." Words from the appointed Psalm for Easter, Psalm 118. Words that ring true on that festival day, but that also apply to every day, since God is the maker of our days, days we rise in the morning to celebrate, days when it's hard to get out of bed.

When I pray for a good day, I find it usually arrives promptly. I know early in the day that I will keep my balance, keep my good cheer, and go to bed tired but not defeated. Part of this better mood is attributable to coffee, God's gift of French roast. But it is something else, too, some aligning of my own purpose with the Almighty's, and God reminding me, in that good day, that divine purpose is accomplished through me.

Monday, April 27, 2009


There's a steady rain going on outside, and a teenager sitting on the back steps in the rain, thinking. The sound of the rain is especially loud because the gutter is clogged and the water is spilling over the side, pouring on the pavement below. The water is also quietly seeping into the corner of the basement even farther below.

It's such a tall ladder you have to use to clean the glop and the leaves out of the gutter. It's heavy and awkward and not at all fun to climb.

Last week it was cold rain, rain that about froze my early red dwarf tulips, one of the few plants that thrive from the days long ago when I gardened with enthusiasm. Over the weekend the warm weather, the wind, and (I suspect) some impulsive children finished the tulips off before they ever had a chance to show their perky redness in an appropriate spring setting.

Kind of like that teenage boy on the steps, who does not seem to travel in a congenial environment. People let him down. (His mother, for one, failed to follow through on a promise to have supper ready after volleyball practice.) Teachers fail to say what they want clearly and cogently. Girlfriends get angry and want what he can't fix. He can't will everything back into place. He can't seem to find a place in the sunshine, just more homework, more things that are not quite right.

How, where, do we all fit amid the glop and decay and water spilling everywhere? We go on thinking, trying, in the warm rain, the cold rain. Trusting and trying, hoping that the sun will shine more brightly tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Cardinal

As I pulled up to the house this morning and parked the car at the curb, I saw the male cardinal. He was hopping through the brown leaves on the ground by the forsythia bush, looking for things to eat. I had been thinking about the need to clean up the accumulated litter in these bushes, the food wrappers, the faded flyers about gutter-cleaning and window-washing. This stuff collects here over the winter. It's wet, disgusting and muddy. How enchanting then to have my attention drawn away from the endless cares of home ownership to the sheer glory of being red.

My Great-Aunt Clara taught me respect for the cardinal. She watched for him from her kitchen window, left black and white striped sunflower seeds in a neat pile on the rails of her back porch for his enjoyment. He--the cardinal--would come to feast and would leave a mess behind, hulls scattered on the grey-painted boards of the porch floor. She would sweep it all up in triumph. The cardinal had been there! Females ate there, too. The love sunflower seeds was not strictly a male attribute, and she did not begrudge them the food (squirrels, however . . . .) But seeing the male--that was an event!

What is it like to be so very red, so scarlet, so different from the early spring groundscape, so different from the summer grass? This cardinal's partner was hunting for food, too, sitting in the forsythia bush, flirting even. But I did not see her until she moved and pointed her brownish orange beak in my direction. When I finally got out of the car and walked to the gate, my eyes followed the male, who leaped first into the bush, then to red roof over the dining room bay window, and finally flew upward into the maple tree. It would be hard to search for and find a brown nest and a brown mother with that bright red distraction drawing your eye elsewhere. Is this why the bird is so red, regal and flashy? To distract predators from the vulnerability of tiny, tasty eggs, of tender young birds?

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm an Easter girl. And at last Easter is here.

I have no patience for Lent, very little for Holy Week. Easter is where it's at. After spending the last six weeks feeling like the whole worshiping church was having a Lent party to which I had not been invited, at which I was a total, gawky wallflower, I am rejoicing this afternoon, glad to have celebrated Easter at last.

Easter girl, Easter woman. What does this mean?

From Ash Wednesday onwards we are urged to repent, to turn from our sinful ways. But we turn in circles and all we see are those sinful ways. We get bogged down, sick with guilt and helpless. We try to reform, we give things up for Lent, or take on new spiritual disciplines, opportunities to fall short once again.

I don't need Lent to get me to beat up on myself. I am a middle-aged woman, a widow, a mother of teenagers who I try to influence but don't always understand. I feel responsible for all of it, not good enough for any of it. From the laundry table to the making of song, prose and poetry, I feel hapless, even hopeless. I won't deny my own culpability, but I am my own victim.

Easter good news came for me on Good Friday, reading Ross Douthat's blog in The Atlantic. He quoted Rene Girard, a French literature scholar, reviewing yet something else. Here's a key sentence: "Instead of blaming victimization on the victims, the Gospels blame it on the victimizers." A radical new thought from the Hebrew-Christian tradition.

I am guilty of many things, but I am also a forgiven child of God. Forgiven by virtue of Jesus's innocent suffering and death, and shown a new way of living in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. Easter says that the only reason for spending energy figuring out what is and is not my fault is so that I can live freely and move forward into the future as a little Christ--a Christ who is risen indeed. The real turn-about as we move from Lent to Easter is God's work, not ours--God's new kingdom revealed on the cross and at the empty tomb and blessedly, in our own lives.