I refuse to say that horrible man’s name.Donald Pollock
When I brought my father to the hospital –whether for a scheduled visit to his primary care physician or an unscheduled one to the emergency room, the doctor would usually ask a few mental orientation questions. Do you know where you are? Do you know what day or month or year it is? Do you know who our president is?
From 2017 on, my father gave the same response to that last question — “I refuse to say that horrible man’s name.” It made me laugh every time.
I always wondered what box they checked when he said that. In their opinion, did he know, or did he not know?
The day he couldn’t draw a clock face (another cognitive screening test) was a sad one.
But the day(s) he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) identify our president still make me smile.
Why am I telling you this story today? I don’t know. In thinking about my self-imposed assignment to write a post every day, my thoughts wandered down this rabbit trail.
In the midst of all that’s going on in our country, I still find humor in one old man’s refusal to even speak the name of our 45th president.
We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm
Lord, tonight I’m tired and weak —
Accept these unpolished words I speak.
I pray for peace but I sing of woe
You watched it all.
I know You know
Of what it means to love You, Lord.
We fumble and fume in our discord —
As some say, “Hey, we’re doing this for You!”
But I say they’re liars because it’s not true.
For You are Truth and You are Light
Please, Lord, guide us through this night.
The time is comeThomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction, “To a Cuban poet”
when the publication of poems
is to be like that
of pale and very light airborne seeds
flowing in the current of forest air
through the blue shadows,
and falling on the grass
where God decrees.
I am convinced
that we are now already
in the time
where the printed word is not read,
but the paper passed from hand to hand
is read eagerly.
A time of small letters,
but serious and personal,
and outside of the meaningless dimension
of the huge,
and the cruel.
Last spring I painted this on a sheet of plywood to hang on the barn.
However, when I carried it out to the barn and stood by the road to look at it, the seeds in the breeze were barely visible and the words were a little hard to read.
So I lugged it back to the house, took this one poor photograph of it, and painted over the whole thing — a single daisy and the word HOPE.
I needed hope so much in that season. I missed my father awfully. I was overwhelmed with his estate. I felt like I was failing at everything.
This morning I was feeling that aching need for hope again — but for entirely different reasons.
It is, indeed, a time for small letters — hand-written and from the heart.
For slowing down and noticing.
For seeing, really seeing, what is true and good.
I need some seeds to plant in the ground.
And I need to wait in hope.
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”John 9:2
I know it’s not a question of
Who sinned, or
Who made the first
Do You really care
Who had the first violent protest, or
The most violent protest?
Do we need You
To point a damning finger
At one group
Or the other?
The question isn’t
The question is
“Who is blind?”
The answer is
The first duty of love is to listen.Paul Tillich
(Warning: a late-ish post after a long day. My sole New Year’s resolution was to write every day, and, doggone it, I’m not giving up in the first ten days of January!)
My son came downstairs this morning while I was working on Duolingo. I’ve been using the app to learn Scottish Gaelic. “I find that really inspirational, Mom, that you work so diligently on that,” he said.
Mind you, Laurel, found it less inspirational when she was talking to me yesterday and I opened Duolingo. She was talking away and I interrupted with something profound like, “OH MY GOODNESS! LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!” They had just added a whole bunch more levels of Gaelic and I thought I was finishing the only remaining lesson available to me.
“See? You never listen to me,” Laurel said.
I repeated back to her verbatim whatever it was she had just said to me — but honestly, I was pretty excited that I now could continue learning Gaelic. Unfortunately today, I have no idea what it was she said to me.
I was planning to write a post about learning new languages and tell a sweet little story of an experience I had while in Gradačac, Bosnia. I said something in Croatian (which is close cousin to Bosnian) to a girl in a souvenir shop. She whispered something to her friend and then answered me in English. The friend told me that was the first time she has been brave enough to speak English to an American.
But the Laurel interaction niggles at me.
On the one hand, I connected with a teenager in Bosnia several years ago and remember it, despite the fact that that was the extent of our relationship. On the other hand, I was not giving my own daughter full attention yesterday morning and she felt the sting of it. Which of these people is more important to me?
Laurel. Hands-down, without-a-doubt Laurel.
Yet a connection over a cultural divide is also important. My poor Croatian betrayed my non-fluency and gave a girl a little boldness. I’m glad I was brave enough to risk sounding foolish.
So, if, as Paul Tillich says, the first duty of love is to listen, I need to do better. I need to close my computer, put down my device, and pay attention to the people who are most important to me and right in the room with me.
But somewhere down the line in duties of love, there has to be something about remembering those little moments, those little interactions, when you connect with someone else, maybe even someone from a totally different culture, and you’re both the better for it.
“…I want to ask you something. I can’t remember behind the last ugly thing. Was she very beautiful, Samuel?”
“To you she was because you built her. I don’t think you ever saw her — only your own creation.”John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Like most of our country, I’m still trying to understand what happened in Washington on Wednesday. The mob scenes from the Capitol play over and over in my mind. It’s like when every station on the car radio is playing the same song. And it’s not a song you like.
I’m reading East of Eden right now (and not reading the back of the book first). This won’t be a spoiler for those who haven’t yet read it because I’m smack dab in the middle and I don’t know how things will turn out. Plus, who knows? Maybe I’m all wrong in this middle of the book assessment. But here goes —
Adam, the main character, is the one speaking in the quote at the top of this post. He had recently been seriously injured by Cathy, a woman he loves. “I can’t remember… Was she very beautiful?” he asks.
Samuel’s answer to Adam helps me understand Wednesday’s events. “To you she was because you built her. I don’t think you ever saw her — only your own creation.”
Other people saw Cathy, Adam’s wife, for what she was – dark and evil. But Adam was smitten. He saw something in her that wasn’t there.
There are people in my life — some of them family members — who see our president very differently from how I see him. I can’t fathom their vision. It feels twisted. But they may wonder the same about me.
And as I continue to read about Adam working through his feelings, I’ll be working through my own, trying to make sense of something that may never make sense to me.
… In the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail.Book of Common Prayer, “For Our Country”
My heart caught in my throat when I saw the news yesterday afternoon. I couldn’t look away from those scenes I didn’t want to see.
Immediately I was back on September 11, 2001. Mid-morning that day, my brother had burst into our home saying, “Turn on the television!”
Over and over we watched planes crash into the World Trade Center. We watched chaos on the streets. Smoke. Confusion. Bodies falling. Then it would loop back again to planes hitting the towers. Our country was under attack.
I remember looking at my children watching the screen with big eyes and shooing them out of the room. Finally I shooed my brother out, too, and turned the television off.
But some things you can’t unsee.
I tried to fall asleep last night but the images of marauders scaling the wall to the Capitol Building kept playing through my mind. Their garish outfits, their over-sized flags, their fake patriotism. Ach — it was all too much.
Yesterday was a day of prayer for me. I fasted until 6 PM, praying often, especially when reminded by pangs of hunger. Around 3 PM, my words were gone, and I reached for Lancelot Andrewes to help me remember what words I should pray for my country.
In his prayer “For Our Country”, he says with, “Bless our ingathering, Make peace within our borders” — but peace doesn’t come without a cost.
Around the same time as 9/11, we had a terrible man as pastor of our church. He was divisive. He used the pulpit to bully and berate. I was called in for church discipline because, as chair of the Missions Committee, I questioned him, his motives, and his tactics. I’ll never forget sitting in his office for my “discipline” and watching him lean back in his chair and lace his fingers behind his head — the picture of pompous confidence — all the while saying untrue things. The Board of Elders sat by and said little to nothing.
Shortly after that — I think it was Palm Sunday — that pastor once again began making untrue divisive statements from the pulpit. This time the head of the elder board, a man named Zig, rose from his seat, pointed his finger at the pastor, and said, “You, sir, need to stop.”
Shouting ensued. I herded my children out of the sanctuary and into the nursery. I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t want my children to witness any of it. A sanctuary should be a sanctuary.
Zig passed away a few years ago but I thought about him a lot yesterday. He remains for me a picture of what it means to push back against a bully.
I spent time last evening intentionally reading posts of Facebook friends that I know to be Trump supporters. One by one, I prayed for them and then “snoozed” them. I ache for them, but I can’t fill my mind with their vitriol.
This morning I reached for The Preces Privitae of Lancelot Andrewes again and settled on this prayer — For Unity —
… If in anything we be otherwise minded,
to walk by the same rule whereto we have already attained:
To maintain order, decency, steadfastness…
With one mind and one mouth to glorify God.
Lord, our country is so divided. It will take a miracle to reunite us. I’m so glad You are a God who specializes in miracles. Amen.
Thanksgiving is not a result of perception; thanksgiving is the access to perception.Virginia Stem Owens
By taking the time to be grateful, I can melt the icy fingers of fear that squeeze my heart today.
Today I am thankful for my neighbors down the road with the Trump sign in their yard and my neighbors in the other direction with the Biden sign. We co-exist on a single stretch of road in peace.
I am thankful for my co-workers who support different political parties and ideologies. We work side-by-side. We laugh together. We learn from each other. We have common ground.
I am thankful for my family members who believe conspiracy theories and for my family members who honor science. Although we may disagree — PASSIONATELY disagree — on issues we hold dear, at the end of the day, we hold each other dearer.
I am thankful that I live in a country where people can assemble peacefully and voice their opinion.
I am thankful for the thoughtfulness and perseverance of the framers of our constitution. I’m thankful for the many people over the years who have served in our government, hashing out amendments and other acts to guide us through turbulent times.
I’m thankful for mistakes because we can learn so much from them.
I’m thankful for wise decisions.
I’m thankful for the dog sleeping here who is oblivious to any of my internal angst. I’m thankful for the cat who tries to taunt the dog — and still the dog sleeps.
I’m thankful for friends who can reassure me that it will be okay.
I’m thankful for coffee.
I’m thankful for quiet mornings when I can gather my thoughts and offer them to God.
I’m thankful for snow. It’s so pretty.
I’m thankful for slush. It means I’ll get to wash the car.
I’m thankful for a woodstove and wood and a cozy room in a drafty house.
I’m thankful that the more things I list here, the more things come to mind. There is a magic in seeing blessings.
I’m thankful for tomorrow because it will come. And the next day, and the next day.
I’m thankful for you, whoever you are, for reading through all this because no matter who you are and what you think or believe, we can link arms and walk a few steps down the road together.
And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.John Steinbeck, East of Eden
My one New Year’s resolution was to get back to writing every day.
For me, that means posting here every day. Posting keeps me honest — and humble.
Posting every day means that I’ll probably post 360 of drivel and hopefully 5 days of something worth reading. (You’ll have to keep watching for those good ones.)
Today was a busy day for me. No problem, I thought. I have a ton of drafts available to draw from. (291 to be exact.)
For the past hour, I’ve looked through drafts that date as far back as 2011. I didn’t find a single one that I wanted to post. But here’s what I realized — those years that I thought were dry and hard, when I was helping with my mother and then caring for my father, actually weren’t dry at all. They were rich.
And I had forgotten how rich.
The drought that we call COVID has been the ultimate dry. I feel desiccated.
So lest I forget, here are some photos from a richer time:
This dry time will pass — and none too soon.