Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A few weekends back I went to visit my friend from preschool (and elementary, middle, high school, Maid of Honor, Godmother to my son...) With great ambiguity we cut through the town we grew up in on our way back to her awesome new home. As we got to the main intersection I had this inexplicable urge to turn right as I remembered a dream I had which took place along that road. It was twilight and I couldn't see too well, but the arrangement of the streets and buildings was exactly the same as it was in my dreams. As I drove around the library more and more dreams flooded back. I followed the path of one dream back over to the Middle school, followed a different dream path around the back of the school into a neighborhood I don't ever remember from waking life, but was completely recognizable from a few recent dreams.

I crossed the main street where I used to shop when I was young- the toy store, the gift shop, the pizza place. Most of the stores had changed over the intervening years, but the layout of the streets was exactly the way I dream of them. (Okay, there was that one dream where the toy store was on the wrong street, but the but the street itself in the dream just the same as in the waking town).

For some reason the parking lot of the Presbyterian church and the Train Station was a mother-lode of dreamscapes, but after zigging back behind what used to be the WaWa and the nursing home I decided I had tried my friend's patience enough, and headed toward our childhood homes. Another set of dreams just about the hedge between her parent's house and the neighbors! She pointed out homes of our old neighbors, who still lived there and who had moved. I barely remembered. But the layout of the streets by that apartment complex... dream after dream in exact detail. Then as we headed for less familiar areas we passed a softball field I had dreamed about only once or twice. I had no idea it existed at all in waking life, and could never have found it for love or money.

Somehow the blueprint of my childhood town is the blueprint of my dreamscapes. My dreaming mind has remembered that place in a way my waking mind never could.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No More Drama

When a church-member fell and dislocated his shoulder, it was explained to me that though "popping it back into place" is excruciatingly painful, there is a huge drop off in pain that follows. There is a dramatic solution followed by relative peace.

When I first started going to a massage therapist, I would come in with some painful knots or cramped muscles, and expect some kind of equally dramatic resolution to the problem; some kind of breakthrough or the kind of "pop" back into place one experiences on occasion in Chiropractic. Instead what I usually got was a moderate easing of the tension; relaxation rather than release.

This physical experience started to work on my sense of how other kind of tension can be resolved. Much of my life I had thought that psychological or social tension could only be resolved through a climactic dramatic event. If you've ever watched The O.C. you know that all problems are resolved through embarrassing scenes at important public events. I likewise assumed that my problems required some kind of cathartic blow-up or at least an opportunity to monologue and have a good cry.

But in my yoga practice I began to learn that many problems in the physical body can be resolved by backing off when you meet your edge. I had a pain once in my hamstring and so stretched it and stretched it hoping for release. Finally I realized that actually the pain was caused by over-stretching. Nothing was going to heal it but rest (well, maybe some ice and a little Arnica gel). Pushing harder was never going to resolve the problem.

One of the most challenging things I ever had to learn in yoga was how to soften a muscle. (I am still working on this, but at least I understand now that it is possible). I had some chronic upper back knots for awhile and assumed I would have to wait for my next massage to have the knots "broken up" but as I didn't have the funds for a massage just then, I asked my yoga teachers for advice and found a couple Yoga Journal articles on the topic. Whereas I was stretching my arms forward to release the back, they were all suggesting that I stretch my arms behind me to just allow the muscles some relief. One even suggested I "soften the muscles." This is quite a different paradigm. I want some hero to swoop in and to break up the knots, but am learning that for many problems in my life I can just focus my attention on allowing the area in crisis to soften.

Certainly there are times when one's life or relationships are out of alignment and only an act of will and strength can pop them back into a healthy place, but even when one gets chiropractic adjustment, it is important to have the muscles as relaxed as possible for the adjustment to work, and if the muscles are tightly held, there can be more pain in the recovery.

I start to apply this to the rest of my life as well. Maybe I don't need a dramatic ending to my conflict with another person, or to my inner struggles. Maybe I just need to soften. Sure it's a more exciting story when the resolution involves a dramatic event, but I no longer look for drama as the first solution to the tensions in my life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sermon Starter

All three of these plants were grown from the same pack of seeds. All were seedlings of about the same side when re-potted in 3 very different sized pots. Insert your own sermon here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Natural Gas

Hydro-fracking is just beginning in the county where my church is located. I'm sure as those 40,000 forcast wells are drilled it will look just like this billboard I see on my commute. Makes you feel all warm and peaceful inside.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back Around

My son has been back at school for a week and a half now, and though I knew it was a big deal for him, I was surprised how much it has changed my daily flow (I mean, for the chauffeur it's not functionally different than getting him to and from camp, right?) and I can't believe how much I miss that extra hour of sleep in the morning.

The fall so far has been this an flurry of details and loose ends. I know from experience how important it is to get the church year started right, especially for the kids. The school year has a tremendous structuring force on the ebb and flow of family life, and we learned the hard way one church-school start-up that families generally formulate their routines by the end of the first week of school, and if church is not part of that rhythm, they might or might not try again next year. So this fall I've been really focused on helping my congregation make the changes parents were asking for, and doing it so that they would be visible and functional on this first Sunday of Religious Education. That is to say- a ton of details and scheduling and weaving in loose ends.

And this conference I'm working on as a volunteer seemed like a nice way to fill out my time last spring, but as the conference nears, the drive to get the loose ends tied up and make sure anyone who should know about it knows about it has added a layer of ends to tangle in the daily web. "You are a volunteer" I remind myself "there is a good staff working on this, and you need to have your primary focus on your paying job... I mean family. Crap." So last night I made "Death Star Popcorn Balls" with my son, and watched the Giants beat the Cowboys with my partner.

But the first week of Sundae School seems to have gone well- and there was an ice cream party afterward, which smooths over many rough spots. And all the speakers and presenters I brought in to the conference are confirmed and have their bios and photos on the website, and they are in someone else's hands now.

This Sunday will be my first full-length sermon of the year, so I tried to keep the week clean of too much flotsam so I could make sure it's a good one. As I sit at my computer wrapped in my comfy sweater with a now cooling cup of coffee blogging to ward off writer's block I feel like my old familiar life has finally come back around.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slug Summer

Everything I planted this summer got eaten by slugs. One day I planted a whole row of annuals and two days later they had been mowed to the ground. Gone without a trace.

Here are the Dahlia bulbs I planted to replace them, which at least seem to be growing faster than the slugs can eat.

It's been a rough year in the garden all around.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We spent as much time as we could on the water this summer, mostly in Lake Cayuga and its many creeks and inlets. Even as I sent out reminders to our congregation to collect a bit of water on their travels for our ingathering ritual, it was not until the last week of summer that my son and I took a special drive over to the lake, and after feeding the ducks all our stale bread, I got down on my knees and scooped a bit of water into a re purposed ice-tea bottle for the water communion.

Those of you who are Unitarian Universalist know well the ritual of each pouring our own water into the communal bowl. And each congregation makes a different choice about what to do with the intermingled water at the end of the service. I come most recently from a church that boils up a bowl-full of communal water and saves it for child dedications and other blessings. At my new church there is a grand procession to the garden and a watering of the flowers to complete the cycle. Yesterday I announced that if anyone wanted to take a bit of the communal water home in their container they could come forward and take it during the postlude and before the grand watering ceremony. I took my ice-tea bottle and scooped just enough for a naming ceremony or two. Afterward two separate members of my church took me aside to remind me how dangerous that water might be. They were right- there are all kind of toxins and pathogens that live in our water today. I promised I would boil it thoroughly.

It was an important reminder both that nature is both creator and destroyer- her energies and gifts sometimes nurture and sometimes harm. It was also a sad reminder how much of our water system has been polluted and is unsafe. I visualize a time when once again our children and grandchildren can swim in our lakes and oceans without worrying about what industries are upstream.