Life · poetry


Frederick Buechner, in his book, The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life, explained the haiku better than I have seen it explained before:

The whole genius of the haiku is that they don’t mean anything. People who try to figure out what a haiku means are beating up the wrong path… The haiku settles for doing, as I read it anyway, one very simple but very crucial thing — it tries to put a frame around the moment. It simply frames a moment.

Since I was a child, I can recall pausing and thinking, “If only I can remember everything about this moment forever.” My everythings ranged from listening to my mother cook in the kitchen, seeing the rainbow circles around the lights in the pool after swimming without goggles, the raucous cawing of crows for no apparent reason, the smell of freshly cut alfalfa, the toad in the garden that startled me when I was weeding, and so on. If I had known that the haiku served that purpose, I might have worked harder on my haiku-ing.

Today’s prompt, Planet, got me thinking about all the times I tried to see the planets as my brother pointed them out to me. He can read the night sky so well. (He even knows zombie and wolverine constellations that nobody else does.)

I would squint and try to follow his finger to the tiny red dot that he said was Mars. Sometimes I saw it, but often I didn’t.

How could I write a haiku about that time I didn’t see Mars?

Squinting in darkness
His finger pointing at stars
I couldn’t see Mars

Then I remembered his favorite marble, a small blue glass orb that resembled planet Earth.

When we played marbles, I could barely balance the shooter marble on my thumb in order to plink it into the ring. If his Earth marble was in play, though, that was the target. Winning that one meant winning everything.

Pretty glass marbles
Inside a corral of string
(flick) – plink – Earth is out


Omaha Beach

American sons
Against impossible odds
Normandy courage

It hit me when I was looking through my pictures that I didn’t take a single shot of the American cemetery in Normandy.

Rows and rows and rows of graves.

To pause with my phone was the farthest thing from my mind, especially after our guide had told us so many stories of heroism.

Life · poetry

My Mother’s Voice

I can’t remember
The sound of my mother’s voice
Fresh grief at this loss

The telephone at my father’s house doesn’t work terribly well, and I want to try a new one, but I don’t want to lose his voice on the answering machine. Is it silly — the things we hold onto?

I really couldn’t remember my mother’s voice this morning, try though I did.

The crappy phone will stay.

I looked through the videos on my computer. Surely I had one with her voice.  I found a couple from two years ago when she was in physical therapy. She spoke three words total in six videos. Monosyllabic. “Yes.” “No.” “Missed.” That’s not how I want to remember her.

Towards the end of the video below, where we are singing the blessing over a meal, I can pick out her voice. It’s a good place to end.


Faith · family

Cigarette Smoke

Among my “don’t likes” —
(cough, cough) this scent (so sorry)
— smoke de cigarette

This summer I hope to go on my very first every mission trip.

With a team from my church and beyond, I’ll be working alongside a family to help build a house for them. A Muslim family.

On the interest sheet, it says I need the ability to:

  • Carry heavy blocks (check)
  • Walk up hill (check)
  • Abstain from alcohol for the time in Bosnia (check)
  • Tolerate cigarette smoke (cough, cough – check)

I’m not a fan of cigarette smoke. There was a time in my life when it didn’t bother me, but sometimes now I feel almost hyper-sensitive to it.

It’s not just that it hangs in the room like low-lying cloud. It’s not just that it stings my eyes and makes me cough. But it sticks to my clothing and my hair. It lingers.

When my brother passed away, I had to stop at one of his friend’s apartments to get a key — and a cloud of smoke escaped when they opened the door to let me in. Once inside, in the smoke-filled the room, I felt my eyes burning. We talked in their tiny living room and I had to fight the urge to cough.

But I reminded myself that these were people who Stewart loved and that loved Stewart. Because of that, I could tolerate — I would tolerate — the cigarette smoke. Love makes so many things possible.

IMG_5087[1]When I think about my trip, I find myself almost looking forward to that lingering smell, too. Afterwards, when I get back home, will I pull something from my bag that smells of cigarette smoke, put it to my nose, and smile because of some memory it evokes?

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Love works all kinds of miracles.