a poem by Ted Kooser

Winter Morning Walks

He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.

I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?

december 29

     Windy and cold.

All night, in gusty winds,
the house has cupped its hands around
the steady candle of our marriage,
the two of us braided together in sleep,
and burning, yes, but slowly,
giving off just enough light so that one of us,
awakening frightened in darkness,
can see.

Someday, I wrote. Someday.

The Flat

prompt from my online writing course:

Describe a place that was meaningful for you, positive or negative. It could be a positive emotion or a negative emotion that you have for the place. Rules:

  1. No dialogue.
  2. No describing emotions.
  3. No backstory.

A thin mattress, set on a thin metal frame, served as the living room couch. A lockable metal trunk, forest green, served as a bench. Inside were bags of flour, and inside those were tiny lines that crawled.

A dusty metal bookshelf stood in the corner, with used books: a Wendell Berry novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and a small meditation on how to practice lovingkindness. Guides to “Scorpions and Spiders of the Sub-Sahara,” with their real-life photographs, were not displayed with spines out. They hid in the box a pocket-sized Bible came in.

Some doors were missing doorknobs; loops of yarn were tied to the holes. The toilet, too, was missing its knob; there was yarn in the tank, looped around the handle. The shower head emitted a thin stream of cold water, though in the baked month of January, the water was lukewarm.

Flip-flops stayed at either entrance to the flat. The floors, gritty before and after each mopping, smelled like lemon. Sometimes the toilet tank was filled with the cloudy water leftover from mopping or washing clothes, so when you flushed the toilet, it smelled like diluted cleaning solution. A trail of chalky sediment lined the bright blue plastic bucket after each pour.

In the kitchen, a trash bag hung over a pipe on the wall, and a calendar hung above that. The calendar was peppered with brown spots from the brown bugs that congregated around the trash bag. Spots freckled the shelves of canned goods, too.

Taped to the cement of the walls were handwritten excerpts from Psalm 42:


Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

The lettering was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, rainbow.

my most recent marginalia

Thanks to this guy for introducing me to the term “marginalia.” Here are some recent markings:

Daniel Generation
from Daniel Generation, by Jolene Cassellius Erlacher

Thanks to this gal for being my friend and for publishing a book.

Cost of Discipleship
from The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[He uses the phrase “natural responsibilities,” “natural ordinances of life,” which got me thinking — what could be a more natural responsibility than raising kids? It is, indeed, a high priority — perhaps even an ideal. Yet if the Christian life is simply another priority, another ideal among several, then might the two compete? Another way to ask the question: If it were more faithful not to have kids, would I be willing not to?]

Present Over Perfect
from Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist

Then sometimes the books talk to each other:

talk to each other
from Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren

And still other times I just correct grammar.

typo

advice from a woman born in 1891

Brenda Ueland at age 47 - 2

Brenda Ueland excerpt
The footnote’s theology: beautiful.

The page above is an excerpt from Chapter X, Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing.

Brenda Ueland Chapter X

The book smells like the crackling-spine Berenstain Bears books I used to get from the library. It has the crackling-spine sound, too. I like to smell books right in the neck, in the heart, at the top. Ink and page and dust and shelf. Worn, musty carpet and metal shelf dividers. Must. Inhale. Books. I love the rubber-stamped address marking the book’s rightful place, and the thick paper.

Our little community college library lets any local resident get a card, and I leave there wanting to kiss every librarian for her goodness.

Brenda Ueland library stamps

Nearly thirty years of hopeful writers did what I did today: stood at the counter and waited as a librarian crackled the back cover and stamped the stamp. I hope the library filled them, and Ueland filled them, writing filled them.

Door

door photo

Photo © Photodisc (via Thinkstock photos)

It was hot the day I visited the prison. A guard in a tower watched me like the sun.

Arriving wasn’t easy. I passed through multiple doors, went through security, waited to be buzzed through multiple gates. Finally I got to the lobby, where I gathered with others.

We were all from the outside, and we’d come to pray with those inside as part of a prison ministry weekend event. We chatted nervously until finally a guard came to escort us to the prison gym. We lined up and passed through another door, into a holding chamber.

It was crowded. [Read more.]