Monday, March 21, 2016


I've been searching for a writer to remind me why I love to read, why I love to write. Sometimes I go through a dry spell; a longing where I pick up 10 different books and put each down. Books and words are right when they are right. Mood, time of year, what my soul is seeking.

Hosanna. Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Hosanna is a word that takes me back to St. James church services, "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Just before communion.

It's a word I've always dug. Just the sound of it, to say, to hear. Hosanna.

March 18 was Franz Wright's birthday. He died last May of lung cancer at age 62. It's not a name most people will know, despite winning a Pulitzer Prize. Poets don't get to be on Oprah or make the best seller list.

Wright is one of those writers, who lights up my soul, points it in different directions.  Yesterday I picked his "Walking to Martha's Vineyard," up off the bookshelf. He is a writer who has been to, lived in, the depths, the mud, the suck, and found religious transcendence; used his struggles to fuel him:

This sky like an infinite tenderness, I have caught
    glimpses of that, often, so often, and never yet have
    I described it, I can't, somehow I never will.

Hosanna. Palm Sunday. The crowd is going crazy. Rock star Jesus is coming in to town and Hosanna is the word they are using to sing his praises, thinking he is going to overthrow Rome. But they got it wrong. That's not what He was up to. Yesterday's sermon in church touched on the crowd, waving their palms, waiting and pleading for the wrong thing.

Back to Wright, last night, on the couch:

Rilke in one of his letters said that Christ
is a pointing,
a finger pointing
at something and we are like dogs
who keep barking and lunging
at the hand

Spring is rebirth. Renewal. It's a return. Saturday was a return, on a cold, rainy afternoon, to Tuckahoe State Park, and a 10-mile trail run loop that we've done countless times over the years, but I'm not sure when I'd run the full loop last.

I went out there to put a hurting on myself, to make good on a promise to log some trail miles and find something in me that I haven't found another way to access. And there were times on the trail, particularly the parts I hadn't seen in some time, that I found myself smiling, laughing, for having returned. I found some part of myself that maybe I keep out there as a reminder.

Hosanna. I was playing with the word like a puzzle, like a challenge. I was repeating it in my head, the sounds, the word, the language. But mulling the meaning. A friend pointed out that "Hosanna" is frequently translated as, "Lord, help us."

And then I saw someone talk about how the word has changed over time: "It used to be what you would say when you fell off the diving board. But it came to be what you would say when you see the lifeguard coming to save you... the word moved from plea to praise; from cry to confidence."

During the course of a run, during the course of years, during the course of a day, perspectives, words, meanings can change. When I am active, exploring, paying attention, I can have something to do with that. The weekend was/is a journey of meals, runs, worship, dog walking, reading, reflecting. It takes getting my feet wet, metaphorically and literally, to get on that path.

As I came down to the creek in the middle of Saturday's run, a Great Blue Heron flew horizontal to and parallel with the creek. One of my favorite things to experience while running.

Wright, in his searching, in his writing, in my reading...

Still sleeping bees in the grove's heart
(my heart's) till the sun
its "wake now"
kiss, the million
friendly gold huddlings
and burrowings of them hearing the shining
I hear, my only
cure for the loneliness I go through:


I believe one day the distance between myself and God will


Friday, March 11, 2016

Bare Handed

Bare handed the man contends with spring...

It's a slow conversion, it's taken maybe 40 years, and the last two, to realize I'm becoming a spring soul, rather than fall. Last year was the first time it really hit.

This year, walking home for lunch with no jacket; warmer temperatures and t-shirt sweat for running; sitting out on the deck for happy hour and reading, after shunning it for the winter. There is both a calm and an energy in the warmer weather, the sun on my face. I've dug into William Carlos Williams's "Spring and All."

Bare handed the man contends with home...

Sharing deep, unscripted conversations with the girls is one of life's profound pleasures.

Home is.... Since July, the girls and I have been fortunate to call a great house in Oxford, "home." They have taken to Oxford. They have taken to the community center in town where I work. Anna and I were talking this week about looking forward to spring and summer in town. Riding bikes, paddleboarding, the Strand (beach), Schooners Landing and the Masthead (dock bars/outdoor restaurants) re-opening, along with the Scottish Highland Creamery (best ice cream on the planet). We got talking about the house, which is our second in two years, and not wanting to/having to move every year. Then we both said the house hasn't felt like "home" yet. That's a curious feeling to both have.

Maybe it's inherent in not knowing if you can put roots down in a house. Maybe it's a part of renter's remorse. Maybe the girls living between two parents and two houses has shifted the notion of what home feels like. Probably it is all of those things. I fully believe that home is a feeling; home is a mindset; home is a community; home can be people. But the physical home of where you put your stuff, where you lie down at night, where you cut grass and eat meals, that has a big role in being "home." Oxford is a place that goes quiet in the winter, especially for 11 and 14 year olds. After moving in last summer, Ava spent a month in a Pittsburgh hospital to end her summer. Hoping the return of spring, of bike rides, swimming, ice cream and sunsets in the Oxford Park; of grilling in the yard, will stoke some homey vibes.

In "Spring and All," Williams writes, "Bare handed the man contends with the sky, without experience of existence seeking to invent and design."

Bare handed the man contends with the sky...

I fully love that, and feel it. We don't have the tools or experience to fully grasp it. We are bare handed, minimally equipped to take it all in. I've had this feeling a few times this week already. Walking down the street to the shore line on the cove with my morning coffee to watch the sunrise. And two nights ago, standing out in the field next to the house, taking in the clear, spring night sky, and seeing two shooting stars in about 15 minutes time. Contending with the sky can overload the soul.

Bare handed the man contends...