What I have Learned

The unfolding of the results of the worst day of your life happen
Like an origami bird shape you can’t quite master so you unfold and fold the same piece of paper over and over again until it looks like something you understand and know. ‘Til it looks like the birds you folded and shaped for the tables at your wedding. Birds with the name of beloveds, witnesses to the best day.


Months later —normal to new normal to new normal –you let go of the shapes and the paper and everything because —-truth—-nothing  will ever take the shape you expect or want or need
And then one day, two years later, you are walking on the beach and a large white shape folds onto the beach and into its self and you think it is wrapping paper and then you know it’s a bird. Like the bird you were trying to make, it takes shape and fills with breath and beauty and grace and truth and looks you in the eye with its gold knowing vision flickering across the sand to your soul. One second later (though time doesn’t make sense right now) your beloved tells you what you somehow already know. Binoculars in hand, Your beloved shouts, “it’s the Snowy Owl!” It’s what you have been looking for, what you are seeking and it shows up in front of you and you know you did not make it or will it to be there. In the showing up on that old January morning —wind biting through the layers of your clothes and coat— eye filling, sacred beauty revealed. In the being, not doing, wisdom in the form of this bird, unfolds.
And you follow wisdom– the owl — as it moves up the beach. Lifting when sensing territory threats, wing still as winds rush. One time it flies far into the ocean landscape almost disappearing into the far, far way. You follow the dark, flat shape flying close enough to the waves that you know the mist of the salty sea is collecting in its snow white feathers. Just when it seemed to give up on you it flies back, slowly filling the field of view with its wide wings and swift, quiet way. The bold wing strokes of the returning owl infuse you with wonder and strength just by being witness, being near.  
Your heart, weak as origami paper on a windy, misty beach snaps up and open and re shapes itself. Vulnerable and open and expectant and ready. The salt on your lips tasted like curious wonder. And Your beloved, open hearted and forever healing, looks like a survivor.
Days Later, when you come back to the spot where the paper turned bird turned wonder happened all you find is the wind and the rain and the memory. And through the wet, water freezing rain the memory of how it once was is enough…sort of.

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Christmas Star of Healing

When I close my eyes and imagine what star I am following this year it is this one.  It is a symbol healing I constructed from pieces of the mold used to hold Scott’s body in place while recovering healing rays of radiation treatment. 
Last night, bone weary, I laid down on the couch.  After a weekend of proclaiming Jesus in story and song and sacrament, the star was a quiet, steady reminder of the signs I am seeking.

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Opening The Door

“Christmas Poem”

By Mary Oliver

Says a country legend told every year:

Go back to the barn on Christmas Eve and see

what the creatures do as that long night tips over.

Down on their knees they will go, the fire

of an old memory whistling through their minds!
[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold

I creaked back the barn door and peered in.

From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,

and the beasts listened –

yet they lay in their stalls like stone.
Oh the heretics!

Not to remember Bethlehem,

or the star as bright as a sun,

or the child born on a bed of straw!

To know only of the dissolving Now!
Still they drowsed on –

citizens of the pure, the physical world,

they loomed in the dark: powerful

of body, peaceful of mind,

Innocent of history.
Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!

And you are no heretics, but a miracle,

immaculate still as when you thundered forth

on the morning of creation!

As for Bethlehem, that blazing star
still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.

Caught in its light, listening again to its story,

I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled

my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me

the best it could all night.


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Curious Wonder

“holy night”By Lucille Clifton

joseph , I afraid of stars,

their brilliant seeing.

so many eyes, such light.

joseph, I cannot still these limbs,

I hands keep moving toward I breasts,

so many stars. so bright.

joseph, is wind burning from east

joseph, I shine, oh joseph, oh

illuminated night.

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By Deborah Digges

My mother danced with the Rockettes one spring

just to earn, she said, a little extra

money after her daytime job nursing
the sick in their homes, some of them dying

during the night. They called her Geneva,

who kissed them, danced with the Rockettes one spring.
Each time she locked arms she had a saying,

Compassed about by so great a cloud…, a

repertoire of greetings, smiles, bows. Nursing
required it, and getting through the evening

knowing any minute now. Stamina!

So she danced hard with the Rockettes one spring.
And in Missouri, years later, she’d sing

to the cancan over our wild hurrahs,

lift high her long, lovely legs, old nursing
cap flying, as though she were rehearsing

with her six daughters, who shouted Vive la

vie! as we danced like the Rockettes one spring—

breathless, she rocked the baby, flushed, nursing.


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Thing we know we will never know

“There are Times in Life When One Does the Right Thing”
By Ellen Bass
There are times in life when one does the right thing

the thing one will not regret,

when the child wakes crying “mama,” late

as you are about to close your book and sleep

and she will not be comforted back to her crib,

she points you out of her room, into yours,

you tell her, “I was just reading here in bed,”

she says, “read a book,” you explain it’s not a children’s book

but you sit with her anyway, she lays her head on your breast,

one-handed, you hold your small book, silently read,

resting it on the bed to turn pages

and she, thumb in mouth, closes her eyes, drifts,

not asleep when you look down at her, her lids open,

and once you try to carry her back

but she cries, so you return to your bed again and book,

and the way a warmer air will replace a cooler with a slight

shift of wind, or swimming, entering a mild current, you

enter this pleasure, the quiet book, your daughter in your lap,

an articulate person now, able to converse, yet still

her cry is for you, her comfort in you,

it is your breast she lays her head upon,

you are lovers, asking nothing but this bodily presence.

She hovers between sleep, you read your book,

you give yourself this hour, sweet and quiet beyond flowers

beyond lilies of the valley and lilacs even, the smell of her breath,

the warm damp between her head and your breast. Past midnight

she blinks her eyes, wiggles toward a familiar position,

utters one word, “sleeping.” You carry her swiftly into her crib,

cover her, close the door halfway, and it is this sense of Tightness,

that something has been healed, something

you will never know, will never have to know.

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Trust Issues 

“Crash”By Elizabeth Alexander

I am the last woman off of the plane 

that has crashed in a cornfield near Philly, 
picking through hot metal 

for my rucksack and diaper bag. 
No black box, no fuselage, 

just sistergirl pilot wiping soot from her eyes, 
happy to be alive. Her dreadlocks 

will hold the smoke for weeks. 
All the white passengers bailed out 

before impact, so certain a sister 
couldn’t navigate the crash. O gender. 

O race. O ye of little faith. 
Here we are in the cornfield, bruised and dirty but alive. 

I invite sistergirl pilot home for dinner 
at my parents’, for my mother’s roast chicken 

with gravy and rice, to celebrate.

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Breath, sweet 

“Variation on the Word Sleep”By Margaret Atwood

 I would like to watch you sleeping, 
which may not happen.

I would like to watch you, 

sleeping. I would like to sleep 

with you, to enter 

your sleep as its smooth dark wave 

slides over my head
and walk with you through that lucent 

wavering forest of bluegreen leaves 

with its watery sun & three moons 

towards the cave where you must descend, 

towards your worst fear
I would like to give you the silver 

branch, the small white flower, the one 

word that will protect you 

from the grief at the center 

of your dream, from the grief 

at the center. I would like to follow 

you up the long stairway 

again & become

the boat that would row you back

carefully, a flame

in two cupped hands 

to where your body lies 

beside me, and you enter 

it as easily as breathing in
I would like to be the air

that inhabits you for a moment

only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.

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Grace, Heart, Life,Core 

“In the bleak midwinter”

By Christina Rossetti 
In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan, 

Earth stood hard as iron, 

Water like a stone: 

Snow had fallen, snow on snow 

Snow on snow, 

In the bleak mid-winter, 

Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold him 

Nor earth sustain; 

Heaven and earth shall flee away 

When he comes to reign: 

In the bleak mid-winter 

A stable-place sufficed 

The Lord God Almighty 

Jesus Christ.
Enough for him, whom cherubim 

Worship night and day, 

A breastful of milk, 

And a mangerful of hay: 

Enough for him, whom angels 

Fall down before, 

The ox and ass and camel 

Which adore.
Angels and archangels 

May have gathered there, 

Cherubim and seraphim 

Thronged the air – 

But only his mother 

In her maiden bliss 

Worshipped the beloved 

With a kiss.
What can I give him, 

Poor as I am? 

If I were a shepherd 

I would bring a lamb; 

If I were a wise man 

I would do my part; 

Yet what I can, I give him – 

Give my heart.

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Mystery is Power Unhinged


How something is made flesh

no one can say. The buffalo soup

becomes a woman

who sings every day to her horses

or summons another to her private body

saying come, touch, this is how

it begins, the path of a newly born

who, salvaged from other lives and worlds,

will grow to become a woman, a man,

with a heart that never rests,

and the gathered berries,

the wild grapes

enter the body,

human wine

which can love,

where nothing created is wasted;

the swallowed grain

takes you through the dreams

of another night,

the deer meat becomes hands 

strong enough to work.


But I love most

the white-haired creature

eating green leaves;

the sun shines there

swallowed, showing in her face

taking in all the light,


and in the end

when the shadow from the ground

enters the body and remains,

in the end, you might say,

This is myself

still unknown, still a mystery.

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