Monday, June 29, 2009

Prayer #72: Used

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy (thanks to Sus for sharing this poem)

Prayer #72: Used

You made us to be used.

Though we have beautiful elements, we are not decoration.
Though we have distinct forms, we are designed for function.
Though we have keen minds, we are soul above all.

In a world shrinking with each transaction
Amid oceans evaporating into steam
With people starving, striving, succeeding at each bend,
We forget we came from dust
And to dust we will return.

So remind us of our muddy birth. Tug on our earth-bound roots, still linked to the billion strangers summed up by colored borders on the map. Smear clay on our eyes, palms, and soles so we can move mountains, ever closer to You, and prove useful in Your eyes.

Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Short, not sweet: Leadership lessons from John Adams

Image from abdurmalik

Leave it to HBO to give me a long-overdue Social Studies lesson on our second president. The seven-part miniseries John Adams -- based on David McCullough's biography -- spans this oft-overlooked Founding Father's political journey, giving us an idea of just what gumption it took to establish a nation.

That said, while we can admire these decisions in hindsight, it's sometimes difficult (at least for me anyway) to put them in any modern context. Our modern revolutions seem sanitized. Our American personality is well-defined. Instead of flowery oratory, our politicians tend toward bloviation. And it's hard to imagine John and Abigail tweeting 140 love characters to each other.

But that's why this series hit home for me -- because once I got past the wigs, and the quills, and the antiquated speech, I found universal lessons of leading with bravery. To wit:

* "Brave the storm in a skiff made of paper."

As the Continental Congress debated the prudence of war with Britain, John Dickinson of PA followed his beliefs and staunchly opposed the war, even though he was quite the odd man out. Though his frightening vision of post-war ruination didn't come true (thank God), he was still a needed ballast, a necessary reality check, for the fiery patriots among the group. For in trying to convert him, the hawks better articulated their position and clarified their goals. Lesson: Devil's advocates can justify/reinforce/temper/refine visionaries' visions.

* No one can stage a revolution alone.

John Adams brought his gift of reason and oratory. Sam Adams brought initial passion and inspiration. Washington brought natural leadership. Franklin brought good humor and diplomacy. Jefferson brought writing skill. Abigail brought common sense and stability. All told, they balanced one another out and were able to reach unity with a cohesive plan. The best example of this: when Adams asks Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, because he knows he will do the best job. Lesson: Bring strong partners on the journey.

* Sometimes, there's just no time to plan every detail.

The naysayers had every right to be concerned -- the colonies had no army, navy, weapon stockpiles, etc. But inaction brought the fledgling country to a point where they had to act or die. They resigned themselves to making it up as they went along. But what did they know? They knew they had to be allies in the fight. They knew they had to declare absolute independence -- which made backing it up imperative. Lesson: Have the end goal in mind, but don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Now, I still have a couple episodes left in the series, so let's see what other lessons emerge. For those of you who have seen the series or read the book -- what did you take away?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer night, one short of solstice (a poem)

Summer night, one short of solstice

Monuments lit from within, without, above
reflect on the sweat drip on my sternum

while I dance in bare feet on memorial steps
surrounded by accents and tongues

My body is a wet fire on this night
a night to take advantage of plaza music,
a night to be taken advantage of

for though I don't want him to hold my sweaty hand
I still want him to lead the dance.

The obelisk frames the silhouettes
of lovers, visitors, children --
a calm throng chastened by the hot breeze,
cool only to pre-baked skin

The city relaxes into native southern languor
but not me
frustrated

I can't capture the lovers' silhouettes
solitary against the limestone
universal in their pose

Tonight I dance with Lincoln
sprawl at the base of the obelisk
eavesdrop on languages I have yet to learn
all to feel significant
and noticed
and wanted

yet I remain undercover
against my will.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tazewell Garden Project, part 3: It's Alive!

Turns out there WAS an upside to three solid weeks of rain ... a bountiful garden!

Jacob's Our brave little garden has made the most of our long spring, and is starting to sprout the telltale flowers, shoots, and fruits that tell us we haven't killed it after all.

Of note are the bell peppers and potted tomatoes (halfway to eating), as well as the Swiss chard (to be sampled for dinner tomorrow night).

Things I've learned in this stage of gardening include:

* Rhubarb can catch red leaf disease. Ours did. Probably because it was weakened by sorrow at the boring literalness of its disease name.

* Yellow leaves can indicate a nutrient deficiency, too much water, or a perverse desire (akin to infants) to leave you totally confused about how to fix the problem.

* Our bean vines tried to infiltrate the neighbor's deck.

* My most significant contribution to this project is blogging about it. And occasionally picking off a dead leaf. Oh, and taking this round of pictures! Enjoy. :)

Note on slideshow: Click on "full screen" icon in lower right and then "show info" in upper right corner to see the captions.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Prayer #71: Kitchen God

Photo by Dale Gillard

Prayer #71: Kitchen God

To the Original Chef who cooked up
one wicked/good batch of primordial soup --

Protect my fingers from the inadvertent slice.
Protect my thumbs from the accidental peel.
Protect my palms from the thoughtless burn.

Keep my creativity high for the improvised feast.
Keep my generosity high for hungry guests.
Keep my patience high for dishes that take time.

May I respect the bounty in my fridge.
May I respect the resources used to bring it there.
May I respect the sacrifice of plant and animal.

And should my food ever spoil,
Or my culinary spirit sour,
Or my call to nourish others start to rot,
Reinvent what's leftover and still good in me.

And if all else fails ...
Please ask your mother to appear to me in my French toast.

Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Word on the street: Skoi

The scene: Orange line metro. A dad and his 5-year-old daughter are sitting together and talking about modes of transportation.

Dad: So where do airplanes fly, honey?

Daughter: In the skoi.

Dad: And where do they live?

Daughter: They live in airports.

Dad: And what do they eat?

Daughter: (pauses, thinks very hard, finds the answer) They eat MONEY.

End scene.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What makes us human? Explorers and hula dancers might have the answer

If only I had my pith helmet with me.

That's what kept running through my mind as I sat in the National Geographic Museum's Grosvenor Auditorium last week, listening to a panel of five real-life explorers share their findings and reflections on the world at large.

As part of this "Evening of Exploration" (moderated by Boyd Matson, the "voice" of Nat Geo), the panelists included Explorers-in-Residence* such as Spencer Wells, director of The Genographic Project; Beverly and Dereck Joubert, wildlife conservationists and filmmakers; paleontologist Paul Sereno; and Emerging Explorer** Zeray Alemseged, an Ethiopian paleontologist who uncovered a 3.3 million year-old toddler.

* How can I get this title?
** Or this one?


The person who captivated me the most, however, was cultural anthropologist Wade Davis. One, because he spoke on the diversity of human culture and what he has learned from traditional peoples about different ways of living and thinking. And two, because he didn't have any hard data backing him up, just a lot of conversations and adventures. (My kind of science!)

What he said didn't need numbers to resonate, though, because it got to the universality of the human condition. Of his many eloquent turns of phrase, this idea in particular made me catch my breath:
Among humans, there is no one model of reality -- only a set of options. Other people are not failed versions of a perfect you. They are different answers to the same question: What makes us human? ... the human spirit is infinite.

Talk about deflating the idea of "primitive" or "uncivilized" with one articulate pin. By framing our cultural diversity in the context of choice, Davis showed that the freedom to do just that -- choose our own paths -- is fundamental to the human experience.

I saw this illustrated a mere two days later when I went to the Museum of the American Indian with my family. It happened to be Hawaii Day, a celebration of the island's indigenous cultures, and as part of it we saw the hula troupe Halau Na Kamalei.

Now, before visions of grass skirts and ukuleles dance before you, keep in mind that this troupe hearkens back to the male hula. Eight men and two women performed several dances for the rapt audience, and what was noteworthy was that it was not luau entertainment, but worship.

Captivated by the lyrical chants, synchronized choreography, and reverent dancers, my mother remarked how familiar it all seemed. At times the music sounded like Gregorian chant. At other moments the Hawaiian words mimicked Hebrew. The fluid movements evoked community dances of the Plains Indians, while the costumes reflected many cultures' customs of using flowers and fabrics for adornment.

Above all, what struck me was how often the dancers looked upward and raised their arms to the sky. They were not using their bodies to talk to us; they were using them for a more sacred conversation.

At that moment, I remembered something else Wade Davis had said: that one element he noticed across cultures all over the world was the tendency to worship something greater than themselves. Everyone looks upward. Everyone acknowledges they are part of a wider cycle. Everyone has their version of a Great Spirit.

How, then, in a world where we characterize our cultures with our self-expressive choices, have we somehow all felt a need to follow and mark a belief system as well? Granted, the stories and rituals vary, but the underlying drive to create meaning -- to create the divine -- is constant.

So I'm going to take Davis' thought and add a spiritual bent: Perhaps we are all failed versions of a perfect Creator, yet even in our failings have arrived at good and beautiful choices. Thus are our spirits infinite, because in striving to choose well, we connect with the eternal.

No wonder living is such an awfully big adventure. Let's explore more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to turn your spare change into social change

Photo by Editor B

Ladies, we are ready-made philanthropists.

Our desire for connection, our intuition, our energy, our passion – all are vital to helping others succeed and thrive. Plus, by 2010, women will control 60 percent of the wealth in the United States. Put it all together, and you have the perfect recipe for widespread do-gooding.

Oh. Except for that whole recession thing. You know, the one that leaves us scraping under the couch cushions and finding barely enough change for groceries and gas, much less donations.

But here's the good news: We don't have to wait until 2010 to fulfill our philanthropic destiny. In fact, we can make an even greater impact now, when our help is needed most – and we can do it without draining our own pockets.

Consider these five easy ways to channel your inner Carnegie:

1. Give a little to give a lot. Philanthropy doesn't have to be about big, anonymous gifts. Rather, focus on microphilanthropy, which combines small gifts with direct interaction. (Example: Kiva.org.) This way, you not only make a smaller dent in your wallet, but you also have the pleasure of getting to know exactly who you're helping, how, and with what results.

2. Start a giving circle or club. As we get poorer, entertainment gets more expensive. So ring up your friends and neighbors, break out the extra folding chairs, and start your own giving circle around a common interest, theme, or cause. The benefits: everyone pools their dollars for a bigger contribution, and you get to see all your favorite people -- for free! -- more often.

3. Turn sacrifice into service. We're all cutting corners in some way—foregoing our morning coffee, cooking in instead of eating out, etc. Now you can turn that frugality into a micro-donation. Add one more practice to your routine for a week -- like walking to work instead of taking the bus -- and set aside those few dollars for your favorite charity.

4. Help others keep their lights on. Nonprofits and other donation-driven organizations are taking the recession hard. Consider giving to your favorite group's operating or overhead fund to amplify the reach and depth of your philanthropy. Plus, by keeping them open, you'll help keep the good work going far beyond the recession.

5. Start a rainy-day philanthropy fund. Prefer to make a big donation to your favorite charity, but don't have the funds right now? Open a high-yield savings account dedicated to just that group, and pop in $5 or $10 whenever you have a little extra on hand. Then, when this downturn becomes an upturn, you can send a fat(ter) check to help your cause get back up and running.

The best part of such DIY philanthropy: You walk away feeling like a million bucks while spending far less. And the investment you made in future good with your contributions? Priceless.

This "doing more with less" post was written for a guest host contest for BlogHer's The Juice by Tropicana Trop50.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Prayer #70: Cover Me


Prayer #70: Cover Me

As night lowers and dawn hovers
I thank you, most Divine of Lovers,
For friendships uncovered,
Sanity recovered,
And wisdom discovered.

You make me braver.

Amen.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Funny Baby Pictures: Take that, toy!

"BITE ME," said the stacking toy.

And the baby complied.



Don't bite off more than you can chew this weekend. Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How to stage a quiet rebellion

My heart and mind are staging a quiet rebellion.

They don't want to drive a "good girl" anymore. They don't want to be responsible, or do a good job with tasks they don't like.

They want to burn bridges and piss people off. They want to indulge in unplanned days, do whatever the hell they want, learn what they want to learn not what others say they should learn.

Poise? Please. Maturity? Whatev. I've over it. The inner demons want out. They're noisy and feisty and itchy. They demand reinvention. They stimulate madness.

You see, true rebels don't settle. They take what they want by whatever means necessary. They aren't neat or tidy. And they are certainly not conscientious.

Because being responsible only gets you so far. To get the rest of the way you have to be responsive -- to your hunger, your muses, your gut.

I'd cry out "Who's with me??" here, but remember, this is a quiet rebellion. The uprising has to happen IN me, not AROUND me ... or not at all.

So Heart. Mind. Gut. Am I with me?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sexism or selfishness? Two strong women debate running the world

Today's topic: Women. Passion. Actions.

In one corner we have Isabel Allende, author and activist. In the other corner we have Jen Betton, illustrator and teacher. Two women. Two views. And two compelling notions of humanity's strengths ... and weaknesses.

Isabel, you're up first:



Jenny, your rebuttal (emphasis at end is mine):
Interesting. She seems like a very vivacious, wonderful lady! I really enjoyed her talk, and agreed with most of what she said. I'm going to pick on one particular statement she made about how "men run the world and look at how messed up it is".

I agree with her that the exploitation of women and children around the globe is reprehensible. I think more women in positions of influence is a good thing. I know that of all the people hurt around the world, women and children are the majority. I agree that empowering women to plant trees, change their circumstances, escape prostitution and subjugation are all very important things.

I just don't think that if women were running the world it would really be a better place. It would be different I'm sure, but not better. I think that the strong will always prey upon the weak, that those in power will always have to fight corruption and greed, and that abusers will look for others to hurt - whether they are men or women.

I think that the problem isn't that women don't run the world, but that people are selfish. I feel that this is the root of slavery, sexism - not that these things aren't terrible and wrong, but that they are expressions of a selfish desire to consider oneself superior, to live a privileged life, to justify treating others poorly, to justify thinking of oneself as better than others.

I actually saw the Bollero exhibit she referred to when it was in New York. Incidentally, the Abu Ghraib prison was under the command of a woman, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, while the tortures were going on. Also, three of the twelve soldiers convicted for torturing prisoners were women. I think men and women have an equal capacity for evil.

Ok gang, take it from here. What role does gender play in morality, courage, and effectiveness (if any)? Thoughts? Opinions? Support? Disagree? I'd love to hear what you're thinking ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Spike from Bravo's Top Chef served me a burger

That's right. This man handed me a burger. It. Was. AWESOME.

I'm not a clubbing kind of gal. So the idea of clubbing in broad daylight -- amid many beautiful young people -- in my bathing suit -- is my personal hell brought to thumping, glistening life.

Spike Mendolsohn, one of the more quirky and enjoyable Top Chef contestants of recent seasons (and the man behind DC's Good Stuff Eatery), changed all that this past Sunday. Simply because he appeared poolside with swim trunks and his trademark hatitude, and served me a delicious burger.

No, it wasn't a wet dream. (Get it? Pool? Wet? Haha! ... what, too much?) I was at Spike'd Sundays at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, a fab DC event that has forever altered my perception of how to act cool and stay cool without losing my cool when surrounded by people much cooler than me.

This is how the event works:

1. You pick your way through the construction debris from the Navy Yard metro.

2. You arrive at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, the outside of which makes you feel like you can only come there if you're having a seedy affair.

3. You go inside to find a very cool mod lobby. You're greeted by an over-solicitous concierge (but only if you're a girl in a bathing suit). He leads you to the ticket booth.

4. You pay $10 for a ticket. This entitles you to pool entry, a free burger, and the illusion that you're cool a wristband.

5. You stake out a seat on any of the pink Adirondack chairs or the orange leather couches. (Pictures here at DC Disco.)

6. You buy a drink (all $5 and under) to sip while you wait for your burger and people-watch. (The alcohol has the added benefit of helping you forget what you look like in a bathing suit injecting liquid courage into your bloodstream.)

7. People-oglingwatching continues poolside, where you slowly become convinced only DC's most attractive people get the emails about this place.

8. You get a sunburn as the DJ pumps up the bass behind you.

9. You die happy.

The best part, though, is seeing Spike work the premises. Sure, it all looks relaxed and chill, but this man is working hard to satisfy his front of house (front of pool?).

For example, Sus and I were in line waiting an abnormally long time for our burgers. All of a sudden Spike appeared behind the grill and asked us what we wanted on our burgers. So we told him, and within moments he had compiled our orders and showed us the care and attention you expect from any good restaurant proprietor.

In fact, he must have cloned himself, because at any given moment you'd see him behind the grill, carrying out an extra sofa, inflating more pool toys, chatting up the pretty ladies, and more. Incredible.

So there you have it -- my brush with reality show-slash-culinary-slash-cool people greatness. And when I need to feel less like a nerd and more like one of the glitterati, you can find me at the Capitol Skyline with a burger in one hand, a sangria in the other, and deep appreciation for the fact I will have at least one "Mommy used to be cool before you were born" story to tell my children.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Prayer #69: The Face of Tragedy

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy. {F. Scott Fitzgerald}

Prayer #69: The Face of Tragedy

Annoyance is relative. Suffering is relative. Tragedy is not relative.

Tragedy is absolute. It upends the natural order. It halts daily life. It carries great loss. It bears misfortune. And in its powerful eddy, we find ourselves swirling first in disbelief, then in shock, then in terror.

What message can we read in airplane debris, Lord? What shapes will form from the blood in the bathtub? What does the fine print beneath the fine print in the foreclosure notice really read?

And why, Lord God, are some lives more tragic than others? I've done nothing to deserve less. Others have done nothing to deserve more.

Abandonment. Betrayal. Catastrophe. Disaster. All terrible states that carry darkness with them like a shroud. No wonder many suffocate beneath the weight.

But then I see the family albums. The community event. The donations. The memorial service. The phone messages. And they all poke tiny holes in that doomed cloud, so that for a brief moment, fresh air enters the living tomb.

Lord who is devastated by our tears, expand our lungs at such times to gulp in this hope. Help us at least imagine the world of comfort beyond those pricks of light.

Because though tragic flaws exist around us and within us (yes, Lord, in this creation You built), they do not have to govern us. We can and will move forward, as long as Your compassion goes ahead -- the only flickering lantern in our sight.

Amen.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Word on the street: Whoabot sighting on Connecticut Ave.

The scene: Luna Grill on Connecticut Ave. A friend and I are having lunch. A little boy, his mom, and his mom's friend are seated next to us. The little guy is coloring.

Mom's friend: Wow, what a beautiful picture! When you grow up, do you want to be an artist?

Boy: No. (keeps coloring)

Mom's friend: Well, then what do you want to be when you grow up?

Boy: (still coloring) A whoabot.

Mom's friend: Whoabot?

Mom: (with resignation) Robot. He wants to be a robot. When he grows up.

Mom's friend: Ooooooh.

Boy: Yeah ... whoabot.

The End.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sublet ads: A surprise lesson in personal pitching

Photo by turkeychik

There is a stranger in my house.

She's about 5'6", brown hair, 22 years old. I have known her for one week. She sleeps down the hallway. She shares my shower.

Who is this woman, and why is she in my house? This stranger is my summer subletter, and I let her into my home because of the strength of her emails.

***

About three weeks ago, I posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a summer renter. I outlined the location and rent. I listed the amenities. And I gave some fun personal details about me and Jacob (we like to cook, hike, watch So You Think You Can Dance) to give people an idea of our personalities and dispositions. In my view, it was straightforward, informative, and friendly. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not 12 hours later, responses started pouring in. And it wasn't long before I was experiencing the strange, slightly off-putting sensation that people were responding as if I'd placed a personal dating ad, not a less personal "roommate needed" post.

Many of them opened up about their desperate need for a place fast, their desire to join us on all our activities, and their own interests and goals for the summer. In fact, I had to battle my urge to write some of them back and say, "Hey, the room's taken, but you sound really cool ... let's hang out when you get into town!"

What was so compelling about these responses? What qualities were people exhibiting through words alone that made me want to allow them into my home? And whatever the answer was ... how could I bottle and sell it to anyone who ever needs a room, a date, or a job again?

Ok, so it turns out I can't bottle it after all. But in answering the first two questions, I can offer up some observations on what characteristics defined the successful personal pitches.

* Be real. People who introduced themselves at the email's start created an immediate identity in my mind -- and proved they weren't a spam autoresponder. Plus, an extra sentence or two about where they were from or what they did for a living gave me context about their place in the world and helped me connect with them emotionally.

* Share what you'll offer me. Strong candidates got my attention when they talked about how clean, quiet, and responsible they were in the first or second breath of the email. Bonus points if they were specific about which dates they needed to move in and out. The clear losers were ones who talked about only what they needed and how I should give it to them ASAP.

* Refer to details in the ad. The strongest responses played up how their interests aligned with mine and Jacob's. Most people shared what reality shows they like to watch, or talked about what dishes they liked to cook. But the most fascinating people were those who built off my very simple list of interests, and wove it into a story that showed insight into their personality. The clear winner of my heart: the girl who told us how she had just hiked the Inca Trail and loved her travels in Peru ... not even knowing that I'm planning a trip to do exactly that right now.

* Give me a way to follow up with you. It seems so common sense, but quite a number of respondents did not give me any other way to contact them (beyond the email address they wrote me from). Granted, I didn't feel the need to call any of them, but it seemed impersonal at best and cagey at worst. Either way, the oversight didn't inspire my confidence in them.

* Don't be pushy. One guy who came to see the house spent his whole tour telling us how badly he wanted to live here (but then said he was only willing to pay rent at $100 less that we required). He also accused me of poor judgment by not accepting him on the spot. Lastly, he called me multiple times that morning to check on the room status and, upon finding we had offered it to someone else, huffily told me he was glad he hadn't waited on me. This young man is now less-than-affectionately referred to around here as Mr. Jerkstore.

* Be clean, neat, and punctual. Another young man who came to see the house arrived over an hour late, clearly hungover, unshaved, and wearing ratty clothes. This all raised immediate alarms about his ability to clean the kitchen and pay rent on time. Needless to say, we did not contact him or hear from him again.

* Show your interest by having additional questions prepared. One gal we met in person finished her tour of our four-story house in three minutes flat. She did not have a single question or offer one piece of personal information. The girl who's now in the room, however, went back and forth with us several times through several layers of details about the house. Her questions were thorough and sophisticated. These revealed not only her understanding of mature living needs and relationships, but also that she cared enough about the opening to actively pursue it.

* Go the extra step. Here's the kicker: We never met our subletter in person until the day she moved her stuff in. We were so impressed with her over email that we didn't feel the need to have her over (plus she was out of town). What sealed the deal? When she offered up her current roommate -- unbidden by us -- as a personal reference. The roommate had only glowing things to say. Bonus: when I referred her to our landlord to get a question answered, and she called him within the hour. On a Saturday. In the morning. That's dedication.

So now the stranger is in my house. She has a set of keys and stores food in the pantry. And she doesn't have to worry about living in a rathole for the summer, paying beyond her means, or rooming with depends on how you define crazy people. Why? Because she did all the right things, with all the right results.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Use photography to capture the extraordinary in the ordinary

"Silhouette of a Story" By Joe Mezzanini
-- reproduced with permission


That's photographer Joe Mezzanini's credo, anyway. And he follows it to excellent effect on his photoblog at JoeMezz.com.

What I like most about Joe's work is his insistence on making the mundane noteworthy. In his own words -- "Photography helps me to see details in life that I may have ordinarily taken for granted."

His images help me to do the same. They remind me to slow down, breathe, and be in the moment, so that the faces, colors, patterns, and symmetry/asymmetry surrounding me have time to unfold, and I take time to appreciate them.

Life is a natural canvas -- many thanks to Joe and other shutterbugs like him for painting it with light.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Prayer #68: Flaming


Prayer #68: Flaming


The black-clad leaders teach us of an evil
Housed in flame and wrapped in molten ash --
A spirit so engulfed in sin, the light
Around it never penetrates.
Just dies.

Yet black-clad leaders also teach of good
That's carried in swift flight on avian back --
A spirit so essential, that its core
Must manifest in purest, whitest flame.

I stretch my palms toward both. I feel the scorch.
A miracle -- or curse? -- they burn the same.
Deceptive choice, these tongues. So warm to touch,
Seductive and beguiling ...
But I pause

And look instead at their reflections.

On one wall, nothingness. Infinite blank.

But on the other ... I see my shadow.
Imperfect at first cast, yet tempered as
The light evolves.
In it I see my chances,
There I see my possibility,
And with each lick I am more certain
That burns from this absorbing heat
Will heal, not wound -- will not deny, but give.
I leave my palm outstretched.
I choose.
I live.

Amen.