On clearing, patience, trust, and magic

2009_8.26_Yosemite2_620w-3I love the image from Martha Postlethwaite’s poem of clearing a space. It’s a beautiful reminder to tend to my inner landscape, before I turn to outward work, no matter how urgent or grandiose the calling feels. The recommended order is: go inside, open your hands and wait for your song to drop into them.

Which implies two important points. One, that we each do have a song. And, two: that all we have to do to receive it is make a small clearing in our dense, wild places and wait patiently. Just ask and it will come. That it will fall into my open cupped hands is a nice image. It implies a readiness just this side of expectation, a proper, welcoming stance. Receptivity sourced from trust. Continue reading

The constant invitation of the eternal


It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

There is a literal way of seeing this that comes out of my Catholic upbringing. How fitting that I should finally be considering this final verse of St. Francis’ prayer on Easter weekend. The literal story is that Christ came to live among us as a man. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. . . .” So the verse goes. I was taught that Christ gave his life so that humans may have eternal life—in a place called Heaven.

It requires a certain effort to pan out to see a bigger picture. The story can be a lens through which to view an individual life (mine), in the context of a culture and, beyond that, ecosystems and planet and universe. And, zooming in the other direction, inspired by the great short film, “Powers of Ten” by Charles and Ray Eames, to see what goes on beneath the surface of my skin, in those interior realms of thought and belief and intuition, and deeper still to shadow and unconscious, into the place before thought and individuality. Continue reading

The empty echo chamber of jury duty

1987_8.2._Agrigento-Temple-of-Hercules_620wOne of the ways I test my relationship with old and new stories is by comparing my reactions to current experiences versus where I was “before.” I used to love Jury Duty. The vaunted process of being tried and judged by one’s “peers,” having come down to us over centuries, is the very pinnacle of civilized society. Or so the old story goes.

My first jury service as a citizen of Baltimore was for a murder in a barbershop. The trial lasted five days, during which my life was turned upside down. Since I was teaching architecture studio at university, I had to ask colleagues, and even my husband, to substitute for me. Cancelling is not an option with design studio. Yet the whole thing fascinated me: the unconvincing young prosecutor on what might have been her first case, the public defender who had seen it all, the diverse members of the jury who resisted having to send away yet another lost boy, and the quirky judge whom I later learned was good friends with John Waters and had ceramic skulls decorating her chambers. I also later learned that the murdered barber had been the neighborhood fence for stolen goods, and had cheated the wrong guy. Continue reading