every common bush

earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes – the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. elizabeth barrett browning

Fly Season

I was awakened in the middle of the night Saturday to a fly swooping inches from my head. It sounded like a helicopter on a rescue mission. This is a dreaded sound to me, and does similar things to my stomach (and sleep) as a baby crying in the middle of the night.  I can never come out of full consciousness to hunt and kill the thing, so it just takes half of my sleep the whole night.

So this went on throughout the night until morning light. It was Saturday morning, the one morning Ben and I allow the TV to be the babysitter so we can be lazy.  I had just taken my first sip of freshly ground, perfectly brewed, light black coffee, hmmmmm, and sank further into my sheets to read when I heard the fat, thick low lazy buzz of the fly again.  Darn if that thing was going to take my morning too.

I followed the sound to the window only to see a small BIRD perching on the blind. I promise, the thing was that huge. My first thought was that it had to be pregnant to be that big.  My second thought was panic.

Any minute, it’s going to have hundreds of babies in my house and the rest of our summer nights will be lived under mosquito nets with fans to mute the buzzing.

The rest of the day was spent, in and out, trying to catch that darn fly.  Ben said he would pay the boys a quarter if they caught the fly with their nets.  The boys, understanding that four quarters gets them a matchbox car, went to work.

Atticus had the idea to fill the nets with food, and found rotting hard boiled Easter eggs, along with the wilting spinach, for bait. We watched and waited for Mama Fly to touch down.

This went on for about five minutes until the children got distracted, as children do, and I set to work on laundry.  They say a watched pot never boils, and this mother and her babes will never wait long enough to find out.

Fast forward a couple hours, it was dinner time and I was putting away the last of the clothes, when a triumphant Atticus runs into the room announcing that he had caught the fly!  Perched on one of the kids’ toys, he caught her with his net.

Victory! We all slept a satisfied, solitary, soundless sleep last night.

This afternoon, after a Sunday morning filled with tears for all the reasons one can shed tears, we collapsed in the living room.  Ben was sleeping, I was reading a book with Solomon on top of me, who was also reading a book, and Atticus was playing with legos.  The afternoon sun shone through the windows, a benediction of glowing stillness over our weary selves.  I was finishing my book, practically a monk sitting in English gardens six centuries ago, when I heard a bump, bump, bzzzz. bump, bump, bzzz, pulling me back to my real self.  Small and imperceptible, I followed the sound to its source.

There, on the window, sat a tiny, baby fly.


Gardening and Parenting, Same Thing

I planted blue hydrangeas in our front lawn yesterday and today.   Actually, they are all green because they have not bloomed yet. I have a vision for this tiny ugly house of ours.  If we play our cards right (and close our right eye and place our left hand just so) I think we can feel like we live in a farmhouse in the middle of an endless green meadow. When I was a teenager garden dirt on my hands gave me chills like nails on a chalkboard.  Today it was spiritual and life giving; I must be growing up.

Today on the way to Nana’s Solomon was proud to know a strange animal fact, just like his older brother. Atticus was just as proud to let him know that he already knew that.  I felt the air still, like in the eye of a storm.  I searched for the smallest, most simple words I own to explain to Atticus that the way he speaks to his brother now will be a part of how Solomon sees himself later, and I think he actually got it.  “So if I am in Africa and Solomon is here, and I hurt myself, Solomon will cry?”, he replies.

Yes, buddy.  Exactly that.  Brothers run deep.

The garden expert says that the flowers I planted today will take seven years to be full grown and sweep in front of our house like prairie grass in a wind storm.  I think of time as I dig deep holes to place the roots in, not minding the work or the wait.  It’s enough for now to plant with purpose.



Moments Named Forever

“Everyday has something in it whose name is Forever”

Like drinking hot cocoa with real whipped cream foam

and squeezing twenty family members into a room,

which both happened today


I remember as a girl

when the storms would come in

We would all huddle in the basement with a candle

And I would whisper to the storm to stay

To take the roof off of our house

Just to keep us together like this


* the first line of this poem is from Mary Oliver’s “Everything That was Broken”, from her new book Felicity.  I got it today huddled in that room stuffed with family. I accidentally read the whole thing and am reeling.  The amazing thing about poetry is how you can’t predict what it unearths in you.  Like out of the whole thing what remained for me  was the feeling of storms in elvaston IL, the coziness of family around a single candle?  It was a moment whose name is Forever, is all I can guess.




From A Mountain Top In Maine

photo (28)

The earth is a metaphor

We live in a reflection

and hear mere echoes down here

But here on the top…

The wind is Spirit

Holy breath on my face

The towering pine trees bow their heads as He passes

And I’m a witness to grace

I look out on the horizon and see the fingers of God

reaching down to tickle the palm of man

Down in the valley a deep wrinkled saint

stretches out his weathered hand

to feel the rain

***in maine, i had a chance to be at the top of a mountain with just our dog.  i felt very alive, like i was getting The Real Thing, not just reflections. i resisted coming down but it was getting dark.  i walked down during golden hour. The golden air matched the golden leaves which matched my golden dog, whose wagging bum looked like a leaf being blown down the lane.  i felt like a guest, a witness to something other, like i did at the top. it’s been a week since I came down from that mountain and i am tucked into the valley again.  back into the world of metaphors and echoes. i am both satisfied and thirsty in the same moment and suppose I will be until I return to the mountains again.

The Year My Children Were A Ghost and a “Little Moose” For Halloween

I don’t take many pictures of our life

i already can’t remember what the kids were last year for halloween

I worry about this

How will they know what a happy childhood they lived?

How will they see what I see

The look of chocolate smeared satisfaction on their faces

while they sleep

i inhale their exhales in the dark

and scribble poems of love for them

in my mind on the ceiling

may this moment unconscious

true but unproven

become a passing thought on the crowded subway

going “home” to expired food and turned down heaters

that whispers “you walk on this earth beloved”

** a note on halloween 2015.  atticus had it in his head to be a ghost.  i wondered briefly about whether we should allow for such evil, but then figured out the price of a white shirt and face paint and remembered casper’s friendliness. so we let him on the grounds that he smile and say thank you. solomon was out of sorts when he woke up from his nap and the only thing that pleased him were the words “little moose”, one word per cheek.  we walked down main street of Greenville Maine with pillow cases for candy and solomon singing “trick or treat” in his own little tune.  it was so cute we tried to sing along but that didn’t please him either.