Street Corner Writer

Thank You for this, just when I was feeling foolish as a writer. Just when I was having a hard time of it, feeling misunderstood. Sometimes writing about You is no fun. People think... well, they doubt my intellect, You know?

Thank You for reminding me what it is to be a street corner writer. What it is to be truly wise.

Give me a dress of silver and gold. A dress and a megaphone. Let me sashay right through traffic, ignoring the beeps and the jeers. Let me speak through the smog. Send a breeze to ruffle my hair, let the curls shine. Shine like the words You give me in my dreams, in quiet places. The words you give me to take like jewels...

...to the street corner.

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Graymoor 3: Centerpiece

It's the end of our retreat day at Graymoor. We are still going to reflect on one more scripture. A different translation of Psalm 23. But time is short. So we can't meander anywhere on the grounds. We're to move about in the same room, each trying to find our own space. When we're done, we'll come back to the circle of chairs. It has a coffee table in the middle, with a makeshift centerpiece. While others walk, I stay and consider the centerpiece...

Two-by-four cross, patched together with a bandage of rainbow potholder weaving loops. A bed sheet wrapped at the base. And candles flickering through dusty amber gold glass— a circle of light and fragrance. Incongruence and congruence all on one table draped with a white, floral-textured tablecloth. Church, even here in this grey room— its grey walls, grey ceiling, grey carpet and lamps, grey doors.

Two-by-four cross patched together with a bandage of rainbow potholder weaving loops. No stage, no slick performance. Just a circle of candles, a circle of your people joined around this cross. Where the Shepherd became the Lamb.

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Graymoor 2: Holy Spirit Chapel

You quieted my spirit when I leaned against the cedar. Now I am off again, sent to reflect on Ephesians 4:5. I walk outside, consider going back to the same peaceful spot near the thicket. But no. You draw me up the hill, to what looks like a tudor home. One of our retreat participants comes out of the door, tells me he just turned the light off. I go inside and sit on a wooden chair, and write...

Silence. Deep. And dark plum walls, absorbing the little light that is coming through leaded glass windows. A radiator begins to hiss. Golden walls towards the inner sanctum, banners, icons. Door closed. Locked it from the inside. Crosses, candles, censers. I see branches, faintly, through white, ruby, blue glass of Madonna and Child. This Child has come to us, the good news that we are sisters, brothers. One faith, one hope, one baptism, one God and Father of all. And footsteps crunching the dirt outside. A brother, walking? I am tucked away, secreted, locked, separate, 'midst mahogany, brasses, golden arched secluded alcoves. One God inside, outside the door. One God and Father of all. Who has stood here, sat here before me? Who will stand here, sit here after me? Brothers, sisters, held together through all time, by one God and Father of all. Holy Spirit Chapel. I unlock the red wood door, and walk out into the world.

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Graymoor 1: Against the Cedar

I come today, tight in my chest, tense in my hands. Restless. Unhappy to be here; this was not my choice. The session opens. I look at the floor, close my eyes. Half listen.

They send us off for a half an hour, to meditate on Psalm 23.

I go outside. Trudge down the road behind the building. Find a hill, snow-laden, brambled. Climb it. My bag is heavy, changing my center of gravity. I am weighed down. Unbalanced. I keep stepping on my scarf, which makes me stumble. The hill is slippery. I grab branches. Stomp my feet into the snow to get a hold. This is no way to climb a hill. I find my way down the other side, walk behind a water tower, under pipes, over wires, going nowhere...so it seems.

Around a curve I find a plateau that overlooks the valley. I stand, take it in. This is where I will meditate. I move to the edge of the clearing, where a thicket begins, sit down on my day's agenda folder, lean against a cedar. Look, listen, breathe. Write, this...

Cold air. See my breath. There's an old, red plastic flower half buried in the dirt— the fake amidst the real. "Knock, knock, knock," a wood pecker searching. And little birds, black velvet, brown velvet. Snow and the droppings of animals now gone. Birds passing through. Flitting high. The ground hard, snow crunchy. A bald spot of earth, littered with pebbles. The breeze. And a "chip, chip" from a black-capped chickadee. The chickadee is pecking at branches on a leafless bush. A sudden splash of red to my left— a gift, a brilliant cardinal in the muted browns. The Lord is shepherd of all this and of my soul with its requisite seasons, its wastes, its wants, its flights, its highs, its cold places and the bright red warmth of hope. The Lord, the Lord of All is my shepherd. His rod and his staff, they comfort me.

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Postlude to a Prayer

So I dream. And it is You, calling me through shadows, down winding hallways into prayer.

I lie down, breathless, tired. I let go.

And, at least for one whose name I whisper in your ear, You answer with a dream. The postlude to a prayer.

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Prelude to a Prayer

Dreamed last night...

Traveling through New York City. From where? I don't know. To where? Home, home, I must get home. The bus is full of familiar faces. I'm chatting with K., a childhood friend. My Littlest is draped against me. My Eldest somewhere else in the bus. We disembark. I'm chatting with K., now carrying my Littlest. We go through a crowded place I don't recognize, to an elevator. Then I realize... my Eldest is not with us. "Don't worry, she'll be with one of the others," says K.

I cannot believe this, so I turn back and leave K. in the elevator, promise to catch up with her later. Now I'm lost in a maze of unfamiliar streets and faces. I think I hear, faint as a whisper, my Eldest crying, "Mommy!" I call her name. And I hear her now a little louder. We cry back and forth to one another until I find her. We are lost together. I must get home. So many thoughts rushing in... what to do? And then I realize I will not ever be able to find K. again, so lost am I. So, so lost.


Today in my quiet time outside, I remember this dream. And I realize it is the prelude to a prayer. For I'm trying to solve too much on my own, hold everything together, be there for too many people. My prayer pours out... for Charity and Susan, for J. and Ja., for S., for P., for T... Oh, God, help them home, wherever that may be. I open my hands and release them to your care. I lose them to the place in You, where they can be found. And me? Send me home too. Let me trust that you know the way.




After the Rain

I come to the little woods today, and it is fresh, alive! The ivy, which only yesterday looked so tired from pushing against winter's hand, is gleaming a deep emerald. Like satin, it shines.

And I think it is like a ballroom floor, unruly but absolutely stunning in its texture. Shall we, my Love, shall we dance across the leaves, hand in hand? Across the leaves you have drenched... beneath a million crystal droplets hanging from the pine?

Come, let us dance.

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The breeze is relatively warm tonight, dry. And the leaves, also dry, skitter along behind me. I turn, thinking surely something is there. Darkness covers their trail, but I hear the scratch, the raspy skid, in any case.

Around the corner, I come upon dry grasses that look like miniature bamboo. They wave at me, eye-level. And as they move, a sound like a lady's crinoline sifts into the night. A lady's crinoline, or a maraca filled with tiny beans by some child's hand.

There are branches everywhere, dry. Curved against the deep blue night. Their true shape visible, lovely. And beyond them the stars peek through, tiny lights in a mistless sky.

My heart fills with sudden praise. You are here. In this dry place.

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Here in the little woods, as I lie back and sigh, I see a fallen pine branch to my right. Its needles are brittle, hanging, dry. The once-smooth bark is lifting like scales, or tiny teeth, breaking by small degrees.

The branch is an arm, or seems to be, draped and limp, weak. Fallen, leaning onto the forsythia, which is yet supple in mid-winter...curved, buoyant even in the bitter cold, its leaves yet hanging on.

And I feel suddenly that this is me with You. Me, leaning in a breathless swoon. You, a curve of strength beneath my soul. So I lean. Lean in. To the comfort of You.

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The sky is indigo blue. Deep. Velvet. The air, a cold slap upon my face. Still, I run into the night.

Everywhere, things are bent, fallen.

The snow family in their airy globe... mama, papa, junior... are bent to grass that's stiff with ice. Fir trees tossed on sidewalks, bare of garland and crystal, languish in the biting air. A Santa holds his gut, doubled over, face angled down. And the snowman and snowwoman in their blue snow world are fainting towards the ground.

Everywhere, things are bent, fallen.

Hidden beneath two woolen hats, I run. My neck behind zips and snaps. My blue sweats blend with the night. And my muscles push against the cold that burns. Your Glory blazes, sharp. A strong embrace. A dare.

I wonder... should I, dare I? Then I raise my eyes and catch my breath, at the sheer, icy glory... of You.