Sunday, May 29, 2016


"Amen," had been in my head all morning. That's not uncommon, it has been a mantra of sorts for years. An affirmation. Acknowledgment. Gratitude.

Tom Robbins wrote that there are only two mantras in life: yum or yuck. Amen has been part of my yum.

In church later that morning, the pastor looked at "Amen." Amen is "yes." And praying is you saying Amen (yes) to God, and God saying Amen (yes) to you.

That struck a soul-chord with me, as my favorite notion of prayer has been both the pray-er and God sitting quietly, listening to each other.

Amen. Yes.

To course corrections. To waking up and realizing what things, activities and people bring out the best in me. Amen.

Annie Dillard wrote that, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." And Andy Dufresne in "Shawshank Redemption" said, "Get busy living or get busy dying." For realizing and spending our days as we would spend our lives. Amen.

For the smell of honeysuckle bringing back childhood memories on a morning walk before work and for taking the time to notice and watch small, odd fish swimming in unusually clear water by the shoreline. Amen.

For the girls getting pulled into and excited about working on projects, even at the end of the school year and watching them think, create, and accomplish. Amen.

For spending a Wednesday evening paddling longer/farther than intended and watching skate swim under the board and Great Blue Herons flying overhead and calm, cool water and welcome sun, and Tred Avon memories. Amen.

For community gatherings and talks on Blackwater Refuge and carpe'ing the evening diem to go catch the tail end of the sunset after. Amen.

For understanding what "community" means and coming together to celebrate times of joy and newness and to grieve and help and support in times of sorrow. Amen.

For cutting grass, moving dirt, planting tomatoes, weeding gardens, yard-earned sweat and outdoor smiles. Amen.

For morning runs, endorphins, and sweaty-striding solitude appreciated in the moment and after. Amen.

For stars strewn across a night sky overhead, summer breezes, Chris Stapleton playing on the deck, arms wrapped around neck and waist and slow dancing, swaying, and storytelling and laughing. Amen.

For watching the girls appreciate and enjoy the town I grew up in, on their own, doing some (but not all) of the same things I loved doing. Amen.

And the pastor prayed:

Lord, I ask that you would speak directly to each one here; that you would give them each one word that they might know your presence; that they might know you are there, Lord.

As I lifted my head up and opened my eyes, I wiped away tears from my cheeks that I hadn't felt start.

I already had my word.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Gifts and Gratitude

Every day is a gift. Even the gray ones. And there are things I notice on gray days that take a back seat when the sun and blue skies take center stage. Like the color green (not pictured). On a drizzly morning run earlier this week, the green taking over the trees, how lush the grass was, it all jumped out. And when I got to a favorite turnaround spot, with no sunrise to steal the show, it was driftwood and the stones on the beach that grabbed my attention.

Every day is a gift. Even the gray ones. This past Sunday, it was rainy and cold and the girls had a field hockey tournament at Washington College. A skills clinic in the morning, and games all afternoon. It would have been easy to bail on the day, given the weather, but none of the girls on the team really did. Last year at the same tournament, Ava and I passed the field hockey ball back and forth on a nearby field in between Anna's games. Ava was too young to play; Anna's team went 0-4. This year, both girls played, each of their teams went 2-2, and the girls played great. It's the kind of day I never want to take for granted.

Every day is a gift. We aren't guaranteed any given number of them. I have always loved and believed the quote that each day is a gift from God, and that what we do with them is our gift back to Him.

Let's play with the word "gift" for a minute. Gifts take many forms. There are the sublime and profound gifts like sunshine (anytime now), like family, like time spent doing something we love, or being with people we love. There are the gifts we have--whether you are an artist, an accountant, a gardener or landscaper, a boat builder, a lawyer, a doctor, a writer. Our individual gifts are part of what make us who we are, and part of how we give back to the bigger picture. Part of what we do with our lives, whether as a job, a hobby, a passion.

There are material gifts, those things that we are given for birthday, holidays, or just because. They are the least important kind of gifts, but sometimes they can show us love, thoughtfulness, remind us of things, hold memories. And sometimes they can inspire our other gifts. I was going through a box of books a couple weeks ago and found the journal pictured above. When I was an English major at Washington College, my sister took a trip to Italy. She shared her travel itinerary with us and asked if I wanted anything from across the pond. She was going to Florence. I was studying Dante. I casually said, "Hey, Dante was from Florence, just pick me up something from there." What she brought back was that journal, I think from a street vendor. Not particularly valuable, there are a bunch like it. But it caused a funny thing to happen.

I was going to school full time and working, cooking at a restaurant full time. The only writing I was doing was after work, writing papers for classes. I wasn't writing anything for myself, just to write. But I always claimed to want to write. I started carrying that journal and writing in it. After college, I still carried it and still wrote in it, as we started a writers' group. When I flip through it now, there are memories and artifacts tucked in the pages--writing, both my own and from other writer friends, a letter back from Tom Robbins--an aesthetic museum or time machine. That journal was, and is, a gift that inspired me to try to do something with my own gifts, humble as they may be. It changed a direction in my life.

So this morning, on yet another gray May day, I am sipping coffee and thankful for gifts, in all their forms.

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was "thank you," that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart