Thursday, September 25, 2008


I think I might be in the middle of writng a bad sermon. Bad sermons happen for lots of reasons, but this is in the genre of "probably you only needed 1 minute to make this point" combined with "I don't really want to talk about types of ethical reasoning while holding the heaviness of my Uncle's death." That is to say, I'm writing a head -centered sermon without enough facts and research in a week that I really want to be writing a heart-centered sermon. I was not so worried as I worked on it on Tuesday and Wednesday, but today is Thursday and all substantive changes need to be made today. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Uncle

Yesterday my Uncle died. It was a long struggle with cancer that began just before we saw him on our cross-country journey last summer. I will be traveling to North Dakota to be with family next week, but it feels strange to be so far away right now, going on with my daily routine, defering grief.

Though Uncle was a man of few words face to face, he was famous for his long letters. I don't think he felt a proper letter could be less than 10 pages. I received my last letter from him after he had already fallen into a coma. It was very upfront about the realities of his pain and the short time left to him, and descriptive (as his letters always were) about the daily routines of his life, now in the nursing home where he would spend his last days. I am slowly letting go of my sadness that my last two letters to him are probably in a pile of unopened mail, arriving too late.

I spent the rest of the night last night with the big box of letters I pulled out of our storage room, pulling out the plain white envelopes with Uncle's distinctive handwriting on the envelopes. I don't think it was easy for him to write. He worked at those letters. Suddenly I am exceedingly grateful for each one.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Expecting! (a pumpkin)

Our pumpkin vine has finally made a baby! I'm so proud. Here's the thing- we don't know who the dad is. Doesn't it look suspiciously like a zucchini? No matter whether it ever gets orange, we are going to paint a face on it this Halloween if it makes it through the frost.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The End of Summer is Yellow

There are orange leaves on a few trees, but it seems to me the color that precedes the fall reds and browns is yellow. I'm guessing this flower is goldenrod I see covering vast open fields as I drive to and from work. Thank goodness I keep a pocket camera with me at all times.

One of these days I am going to leave for work an hour early, load up the good camera, and try to capture the beauty of my drive.

I did a search for a cafe in a town near my church, and learned we are in "God's Country." It is called this not because of the conservative politics and religion of many who live out that way, but because of the stunning beauty.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm learning to play the mandolin. There -- I've said it. I don't think I've learned to play a new instrument since, gosh, 1981 maybe when I started studying flute with my mom. It's really weird to learn a new instrument as an adult. You EXPECT a 6 year old to sound creaky and inaccurate when playing a new instrument, but adults are supposed to be polished and smooth. I'm treating it as a spiritual discipline. If I've learned anything from yoga it is the power of the regular practice to train muscles and mind over time. If I can learn to stand on my head as an adult, surely I can learn to play the mandolin, right? Surely if I just repeat the things I know, and some new things on my edge, eventually transformation will happen, right? Surely after 19 years of music lessons, including 5 years of University and conservatory study, surely I know something about how to repeat and refine until a thing is pleasant to listen to? I try to have this faith, because I know sure as I know my own name that between the first thrill of picking up my new instrument, and playing something that is pleasing to hear will be a long journey.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Plant Tomatoes

Want to change the world?

Plant tomatoes
Or cucumbers
Or an apple tree

My world is changed
When dinner comes out of my earth
Picked by my hand

I understand something
(Forgotten at the Supermarket)
Standing in a patch of cucumbers

Want to change the world?

Plant tomatoes for someone else
Start a community garden
Grow food on the commons

Imagine walking down Main Street
If the trees all bore fruit
And the fruit was coming ripe

The earth is a food pantry
Make sure the shelves are stocked
For the feast.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


After attending a workshop with Starhawk, I signed myself up for her blog. It is really something to know that whether there is a protest at the RNC or at the GTO, I will get something in my inbox from Starhawk, witnessing the conditions of the designated protest areas, who was tazered, what activists from around the world are at the protest, and how a good witch responds. She is an inspiring example of someone who takes her fame and notoriety to the streets again and again, though I'm sure she could be safely at home in Marin tending her garden, teaching ritual and writing books.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Pratchett Sermon

Well, it finally happened. Terry Pratchett has finally made it into one of my sermons. In fact, our morning's text is from "Witches Abroad."

I have read so much Pratchett in the past 2 years that everyone asks me if he is my favorite author. The answer to this is not easy. I would have to say Pratchett is not my favorite "writer." He's not a poet, and I do not ever fall into raptures over the beauty of a sentence (Jeanette Winterson is one of my favorites for that). Really, he's more like a friend. He keeps me company, he's funny, he gets my mind off my troubles, and he has great ideas. I will be very sad when he leaves us.

Now that I'm thinking, here are some of my other favorite friends that I've never met:

Brian Eno
David Byrne
Ani DiFranco
Saul Williams
Wendel Berry
Ursula LeGuin
Michael Franti

My joke

Here is the only joke I've ever made up:

Q: What's the difference between a rut and a groove?

A: Whether you want to get out.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Community Organizers

There are many things I would like to rebut in Gov. Palin's acceptance speech, but the one keeping me out of my garden right now is her position on Community Organizers. When she and Giuliani belittled that profession, I was so shocked I had to take stock of my world-view on that point. See, I thought everyone admired community organizers. When Jesus was mentioned in the Unitarian Universalist church I grew up in, he was unfailingly mentioned in the company of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Susan B. Anthony. What do those four have in common? They were all Community Organizers! So I learned as a little girl, sitting in church with my legs dangling off my seat that there is literally no higher calling than to be a community organizer who works to bring justice and peace to the world.

Obviously, not every organizer is going to change the world like Martin Luther King did, but the local organizers I met in California worked hard in a job with high stress and burn-out. They empowered people to be part of the political process, and to express their needs to the decisions makers in their community. Organizers must have an intimate knowledge of the politics of their community if they are to be effective, and must be responsible to the people they serve. You can't get a group of hockey moms and dads out on a Tuesday night to plan an action if they don't believe they are making a difference and that their self-interest will be served. (If you want to see a real-life bunch of organizers I admire deeply, check out PIA).

So here's to the Community Organizers of our great nation. You are my heroes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I was checking out a display of local art in a local coffee shop, and next to the watercolor prints of local gorges and Ithaca landmarks was a card listing "10 things to love about potholes" and another listing "10 ways to recycle Birkenstocks". Potholes, gorges and Birkenstocks, there is a sense that this is how one can sum up Ithaca. Potholes and gorges- I am right there with you. But the Birkenstock thing gets at the creepy underside of Ithaca. As a proud Birkenstock-shorn American, I'm not trying to disown my lifestyle choices, but I am warry that people really do have the perception that all Ithaca-ites would resonate with this joke. But I'd like to suggest that not everyone in Ithaca is an over-educated, affluent hippie. There are undoubtedly folks in our community who have never listed to Bob Dylan or Joan Baez, and for whom Birkenstocks are culturally irrelivant. Having spent the last year inspecting the homes of low-income families and reviewing their finances, I have to add to the conversation that folks who are living in subsidized housing on food-stamps and $75 a month childsupport do not wear sandles that retail for $119.95. I'm not saying Birkenstocks are creepy, or poverty is creepy, I'm saying the idea that Ithaca is homogenous is creepy.

Everyone in Ithaca can see the gorges if they want to. Everyone who has ever ridden a bike, car or bus through Ithaca feels the potholes, but if you think that Ithaca can be charachterized by birkenstock references, please drive your Cornell-butt down the hill and notice that Ithaca is an economically and culturally diverse community.