In lieu of trying to belong to any number of societies: Chesterton, Sherlock Holmes, the Inklings, and so on: I propose and establish one of my own. Don your intelligence cap at the door; dust off your logic and imagination; did you bring your inspiration and encouragement? We are shapers, my friends; lit lamps; light-bringers. Bring quotes*; poetry should be uplifting and thoughtful, or witty and clever, (or both). Humor is encouraged; laughter is invited back. Pull up a chair. Anyone for tea?

* C.S. LEWIS, J.R.R. TOLKIEN, SHERLOCK HOLMES, G.K. CHESTERTON, N.D. WILSON, AND P.G. WODEHOUSE, ARE ENCOURAGED

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Hey Siri, take me home

 

After Saturday's fare-thee-well party where we ate meatballs and chocolate cake, shared stories, and sang our hearts out (or at least I did)... I headed out of the city on Sunday, full of gratitude for where I've been, and the love and belonging I'd been shown there. 

Ahead of me stretched a few-hours drive into the country, and an immeasurable life-journey beyond that. 'Siri,' I said, 'Take me home'.

On my way out of the city, I stopped at a Red Cow (something you don't get out in the Middle of Nowhere) for a burger that made me want to cry it tasted so good. It was early afternoon, and I knew that without significant protein, I would be languishing before I reached Small Town, MN. And so, complete with gluten-free bun, separate-fryer-side, and dragon-sauce, I restarted my gps and audiobook, and pointed my car west.

Oh how glad I was to be done with the hardest stage of moving. To have the coming days free from the pressure of work and schedule, to reorder my life a little. To work on my house a lot. To get involved in my sister's family as neighbors once more. Oh so grateful to have this opportunity for new beginnings, for self-expression; room to entertain, and room to dance. And more than anything, grateful for the sense of home waiting for me at the end of my drive.

I've been spending weekends at my house for over a month now. Bit-by-bit, turning a house into a home. Experiencing the peculiarities of small-town life. Some of my interactions back in a Small-Town have been a lesson in amusement:

There's very little smize or conversation coming from the local folk, just a lot of staring. Some of my  coworkers from long ago, (who have been asking for ages whether I'll come back), received the news that it was happening with barely the lift of an eyebrow or the nod of a head.

"Whatever the opposite of demonstrative would be." I told a city friend.

"That town," they responded, "Isn't going to know what hit them!"

The first time I went to the hardware store for paint, my sister went with me, and we were able to deliberate, talk with the paint guys, and find what we needed. And after a few trips back to the same aisle, urged by the cashier to choose a better roller or tray, left with what we came for. 

My subsequent trips were not always as productive. First, we came to needing a can of paint near closing-time, and so I dashed over and asked if it was too late for a gallon of paint. With six minutes to the hour, and most of the staff having wandered off already, no one was found to mix my paint, and I had to wait till the next day. A week later, when I returned for another gallon of paint, it was a little after 1:30 in the afternoon, loads of time. I don't see anyone near the paint counter, so I have to ask again. Anyone around for paint? 

Well, they tell me, that guy has gone to lunch. 

 Ah. And when will he be back? 

Pause, and a glance at the clock. Shrug. Two? 

I'll be back then, I tell them, and head back home to spend some productive minutes before I can return for that gallon of paint.

'Local girl returns to Small Town and is stonewalled by the Hardware Store' my sister laughed.

But truly, the painting as a whole has gone swimmingly, and I can now sit back and work on arrangement, organization, and decoration. 

My furniture, in one trailer-load, was hauled out here last Friday with the help of my brothers. Mama made dinner, and my sister's family trooped across town to help unload and inaugurate the house with a round of food, plans, and laughter (coffee too).

In the few days that I have really and truly lived here, I have enjoyed making a list each day of things I could accomplish. Some of which I do, in fact accomplish, while some projects that never made it onto any list get done as well. And several items from my lists have been pushed off into the future in favor of learning shuffle-dance steps, making chocolate chip cookies, and writing up business proposals.

But it is immensely satisfying to screw in socket-plates, hang curtains with my new tool kit, hang lights, and frame pictures. To pad about my garden, barefoot but wrapped in a blanket, prodding mint leaves, sniffing cherry blossoms, and grinning at the dandelions and crocuses daring to bloom. While on a zoom-call today, I was distracted by a house sparrow carrying bits of brush to make a nest. And this evening there were bees in the tree blossoms. 

In a world heavy and fraught with grief and sickness and upheaval, these small things are truly golden.

The tumult of the world will always break in. Steps of hope as well as stumbles of sorrow. The verdict from Chauvin's trial this week left me and mine weeping in relief and hugging-fit-to-break, over one small step for mankind: a tiny link in the chain of accountability necessary to move forward on human rights. And today, as I wrote on my laptop and made my lunch, I tuned in to NPR's coverage of the funeral for Daunte Wright. Beautiful, moving, and not lightly forgotten. Nor should it be.

These weave together into my days here. From organizing my remaining book-boxes, to cooking a good breakfast with a cup of tea each morning. Making cozy corners, and wide-open spaces in between. Trying to teach the running-man shuffle dance (at which I am no expert) to a bundle of laughing folks in the kitchen, while holding a sleepy toddler: an exercise in joy. Finding a place for the pineapple (gifted to me for my new home) to sit in state until it's cut and eaten. Keeping my plants alive and well. Using my new vacuum. And slowly transforming the space into a surrounding of comfort and beauty.

In future posts, I will show before-and-after pictures of some of the rooms I'm mostly done with. Until then, thanks for coming on this road with me, virtually though it may be. Lovely to 'see' you here from across the miles. More soon,

Peace


Let hope fill you with joy


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Let love be genuine
Reject anything evil
Cling to everything good
Love like sisters, brothers, friends
Compete at showing honor & respect
Stay faithful and diligent
Be alive with the Spirit
Serve Jesus
Let hope fill you with joy
Find patience in your struggle & grief
Never stop talking to God
Share with your fellow journeyers
And open your home to them

Find joy in God, it is always there
Look to him and rejoice
Be so reasonable, that everyone knows it
The Lord is here with us
So don’t live into your anxiety
Live into prayer & communion with God
Ask questions
Thank him for what you have
Talk to him about your needs and your wants
This makes room for peace to flow in
A kind so good, you don’t even know
The hand of Jesus, protecting your heart and your mind

You may not have heard, but…
The God we serve lasts forever
He created everything you see
He doesn’t get tired or worn out,
And he understands better than anyone you know
He’ll share his strength with those who feel unutterably weary
And make even the weakest of us powerful
Even children get tired and worn out
Strong men trip up and fall flat
But when we hope in the real God
Our strength will be revived
When we run, we won’t get worn out
As we walk, we won’t feel faint
We’ll be able to fly!

I encourage you to live in a way that’s worthy of the name of Jesus
Walk the humble path,
Choose the gentle way
Bear with each other, full of love
And not with impatience
Gladly do the maintenance that unity requires
For we have the same Spirit
And the peace we live out, is our bond

What I want more than anything
So much that I’ll forget my other requests
Let me live where my God lives
Every day, may his home be mine
Let me see him in all his beauty
And seek him where he is found

Keep a weather-eye out
Don’t be shaken, be faithful
Be brave, & take courage
You are strong; live it
Let love lead everything you do

This is what Jesus says:
Keep chasing joy
Talk to me constantly
Always find things to be grateful for
This is the way of God

Don’t be afraid, I’m here
Don’t worry, ‘cause I’m God
And we belong to each other
I will help you and make you strong
I’ll hold you up with my own two hands

May you be filled with joy by the God of Hope
And filled with peace when you trust him
Then, by his powerful Spirit, you too will become an overflow of Hope

from Romans 12:9-, Philippians 4:4-, Isaiah 40-28-, Ephesians 4:1-, Ps. 27:4-, 1 Cor 16:13-, 1 Thess. 5:16-, Isaiah 41:10-, Romans 15:13-,

Someday is now


 And, I'm at it again, packing up those books I love, in preparation to giving them a new home. One with more space and scope, one that's a bit of a dream come true. Each new house I've lived in has held some exciting progress: moving away for the first time, and then a place to myself, and then a place grand and beautiful. This next stage on the journey holds a piece of each of those places, and a whole new experience into the bargain. It promises freedom and retreat, creative expression and challenge, nostalgia and an unknown future. It is a place that has been beautiful before, and will be beautiful again, but this time it will be mine.

Perhaps strangely, it feels like a natural progression forward, rather than a step back, to be returning to the small town I lived in for several years, before moving to the cities. It amuses me that Go west, young man, go West, is still an answer to wanting elbow-room, freedom, and affordable housing. . . Although as I think about it, my heart can't help but break at the thought of all the native peoples who were displaced by Western Expansion. The spot I am returning to was once the land and home of the Oceti Sakowin, the Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Yankton peoples. I will remember them, and respect these Minnesota plains I cross more often these days. I am not sorry to be once again taking up residence where I can smell the fields, plant things in the ground, and create a sanctuary for the bees and birds.

After several years, sporadically documented here, I am leaving the city. It was nearly five years ago I decided to be intrepid, move out, and try a year in the city. It seems half a life-time ago, I am such a different person to who I was then. A little more battered, but a lot more brave. Carrying a little more sadness, and a lot more strength. I've taken on a little cynicism, and a great deal of confidence. I have new edges, and new compassion. My poetic soul has new dark circles under its eyes, but believes, stronger than ever, in the power of a brand new day. Fresh starts. 

Like the one I'm taking now. More than anything, because I'm ready to stop living an in-between kind of life; one where I feel like I'm waiting to begin. I want to begin. And I've found a place to do it. Somewhere I think I can be the person I want to be, live into my values. Room to expand and create, to move and do yoga, to cook and bake and entertain. A home that I can invite others into, fill with hospitality, guests, and laughter. A place to let the imagination run free, to return to in solitude, to be an endless project, a home base. Where I can take the long view, plant perennials, decorate my dream house, leave nothing undone just because 'I'll get to it someday'. Someday is now. This is life, and we're never more ready. It's not an arrival, it's movement. We have to step forward. Grow. Life is a long path faithfully trodden, mileposts left behind one after another. 

The house I last lived in with my parents, stands empty, waiting for me. My favorite house, all covered with vines. Bare rooms ready to be made over to suit my waking dreams. Endless projects and scope for imagination and creativity. The blueprint of the house, the bare bones, I know well. (I may still be able to skip the squeakiest step while running down the stairs.) And yet, ever corner is new, because its mine. Because the colors will change, the textures, and lines, the designations and aesthetic. I am crazy excited, and will be sharing the entire process here as much and as often as possible. Hold onto your hat!

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A bit of sun, a moment away

  

There are two kinds of Cabin Fever. One makes you long to see every vestige of sunshine, summer memory, and tropical magazine. The other makes you frustrated every time you hear of someone living somewhere warm, visiting the beach, or otherwise not freezing to death. If you are experiencing the second variety, click away now. 

Otherwise, enjoy some photos of a glorious getaway I was so fortunate as to experience last week. It was a rare opportunity, during this time of isolation, winter, and limited travel, I know. And so one can only embrace the chance to its potential. That is, just spend as much time in the sun as possible, refuse to close the windows for an entire week, breathe in lungful after lungful of moist sea air, and set about getting as tanned as (Minnesotanly) possible in the span of time allotted.


I of course read several books, walked upon the sand, collected shells, listened to beachy tunes, took naps, and generally discussed all of life's problems with mother. Whether or not we solved many dilemmas, or mostly just cheered each other on the road is irrelevant. But most importantly for me, it gave me time away (with a trusty sounding board) to collect my own thoughts and come to a bit of clarity about what lies ahead. I've been aware that it's time for some changes in my life, but unsure in which direction I should be heading. I am ready to step out of an in-between type stage of my life and find a life where I can work the long game, and I seem to have found the missing puzzle-piece.




More on that to come in future posts!
(And no, I'm not moving to Florida, as sunny an idea as that is)
Stay tuned!

Thoughts on February

 
"May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears" - Nelson Mandela

I've been waiting for my thoughts to cohere, as if a few more days in the current milieu will bring my scattered thoughts into some sort of patterned motion. But it's been weeks since I've been here, and so I'm back, wearily disregarding the verisimilitude of eternal winter, my own brain fog, and the overall shadowiness of the world right now. Not to say those themes won't come up during discussion of this month, be we are declaring them surmountable.

How to address this February? In doing so, we must acknowledge its long standing as a short month that drags on; as a time that seems like it should be warmer than January, but isn't; and that we generally amuse ourselves with embracing Valentines Day or a full-scale eschewing of it. But we also have to honor the fact that it comes as a year-marker of the hardest time in many of our lives. It's nearly March again, and so many of us are still trying to understand, process, and recover from March of last year, and the world-scale tragedy and long-term disaster-relief that has followed.

I entered January exhausted, and with limited rest and additional weights, reached February pretty burnt out. Still, I knew it was a new month, a new page, and I was determined to read hope there. So I made a Spotify playlist and a Pinterest board both called "February Aesthetic", filled with a sort of cathartic romantic beauty meant to lift my spirits, and the hearts of those I shared them with.

 
Because I cut out refined sugar in January, I had to wait until February to begin my adventure with macarons. I'd never made them before, but was convinced I could manage, and that they're well worth adding to my repertoire. My first couple batches I struggled with getting the color right (natural dyes, and adding it too late) but I got the form and "feet" down on the first try, and a week or so later, I managed these pictured below in cheerful colors. I'm very happy to have these cheerful confections in my baking arsenal now, but my sugar intake has spiked in a less than optimal way, so I'll have to work on that next....


Besides these festive sweets and a few cut-out hearts, I didn't do much for Valentine's. Days like these, pandemic and all, it's hard to feel the difference of one day to the next, what with all the Fridays that feel like Wednesdays, and the Sunday-Tuesdays, and the Monday-Thursdays (wait, we're almost to Lent again, aren't we). One of these days I'll catch up.

Because February is also Black History Month, I wanted to read mostly Black authors in February. I started with one that's been on my list for a while, Hidden Figures. And it's every bit as good as I thought it would be. Many of us have seen the movie, which is also brilliant, and I look forward to rewatching that as well. Now I'm in the midst of A Promised Land, and still working on getting through Stamped. Also on my list is The Condemnation of Blackness, but I don't think I'll get to it before the month is up. What are you reading this month?

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 More on what the second half of my February looks like in future posts

I'm going where there's more ochre in the painting, and less titanium white.

I'm thankful for...

poets
reason to celebrate, and friends to celebrate with
                                    MLK                  a woman VP, Michelle in every way, women lifting each other up
skylines
hashbrowns
opportunity for a proper teatime
catch-phrase with these two
puzzling with this girl
 a 1000 piece of Sherlock Holmes' London in 3 days

A few happy things

I promise to get back to more regular posting of the every-day variety, after my recent deep dives and long silences. I've been trying to live in the moment, from early morning breakfast, through commute and podcasts and work and audiobooks and teatime and journaling and supper and crosswords to working hard on sleep hygiene in an attempt to get any sleep these nights. In a minute here, I hope to be able to share more of that here. Till then, darlings...