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Archive for July 2009

poetry . Green Striped Melons

The latest column in the American Life in Poetry project reminded me that ripening happens not just in sunny days, but in rain and starry blackness as well. And, as the color deepens and becomes more varied on the surface of a time- and weather-worn life, we have hope that the lush and vibrant flesh beneath is becoming sweeter still–just waiting to crack open and spill out it’s fragrant juice. Here’s to American poets. Here’s to the poetry all around us. Here’s to a weighty life…

American Life in Poetry: Column 227
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Jane Hirshfield, a Californian and one of my favorite poets, writes beautiful image-centered poems of clarity and concision, which sometimes conclude with a sudden and surprising deepening. Here’s just one example.

Green-Striped Melons

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

 

Some people
are like this as well–
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting
.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2008 by Jane Hirshfield, whose most recent book of poems is “After,” Harper Collins, 2006. Poem reprinted from “Alaska Quarterly,” Vol. 25, nos. 3 & 4, Fall & Winter, 2008, by permission of Jane Hirshfield and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

tiny messages . Finding Fingers

When Baby Girl was not quite two months old, I remember a smile creeping to my face as she would hold her hands up in front of her face and stare at her own fingers. Watching intently as each finger moved, she was fascinated by them, and I by her again. I have loved that moment with each of my gifts–that moment when they discovered for the first time, “Hey, those are mine. I can move them.”  Finding your fingers is a monumental step.
She found her fingers, then found that she could move them, then that she could hold things. As the sense of discovery moved from her fingers to her toes, she realized that toes were good for chewing. Naturally, putting fingers and toes together brought a whole new dimension to life: mobility. Sitting, skooching, lop-sided crawling, standing, stepping while holding on. Now, we’re approaching another more literal monumental step. THE monumental step. The first. I’m not sure I’m really ready because I know one small step for Baby Girl is one giant leap for off-to-the-races. We can only barely contain her perpetual motion as it is, and her brothers are already quite often vexed by her speed, agility and desire to join the game. I can only imagine what ramifications THE step will bring to that scenario.
Still, as I watch Baby Girl, I can’t help but think about that day in October when I first noticed her find her fingers. Look how much she’s grown. Look how far she’s come. Look how our lives around her have changed, just from her ownership of those tiny, precious digits.
In the months since Baby Girl’s discovery, I have found myself on the cusp of finding fingers for myself. In seasons of dissatisfaction or seeking after something new, I’ve realized that change requires the discovery of my own ownership of where I am. If I want a situation or attitude to be different, I must find my fingers. I must find my action and my will to move. Even if the change I think I seek is in another person, I can only move myself. I’ve been convicted that I must BE the change I want to occur around me.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (psalm 37:4)
Again and again, I’ve come back to that familiar promise. How easily I can focus on the delight and the desires. But, if I step back one verse, I see the first grasp of the fingers. “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” Even before delighting in the Lord Himself comes taking posession of the land He’s put me in. Comes the willingness to live there. The gumption to cultivate it.
If I want a more loving and peaceful home, I must sow seeds of love and peace by my own actions and attitudes. If I want to see new areas of creativity blossom, I must discipline myself to take the steps to weed and water. If I want the description of my daily life to be different, then I must take the effort to cultivate changes row by row, seed by seed and snip by snip. And, that effort begins with the realization that, “Hey, those are mine. I can move them.” Monumental steps, and indeed carefree running, begin with finding fingers.

gift_tag_head

When Baby Girl was not quite two months old, I remember a smile creeping to my face as she would hold her hands up in front of her face and stare at her own fingers. Watching intently as each finger moved, she was fascinated by them, and I by her again. I have loved that moment with each of my gifts–that moment when they discovered for the first time, “Hey, those are mine. I can move them.”  Finding your fingers is a monumental step.

She found her fingers, then found that she could move them, then that she could hold things. As the sense of discovery moved from her fingers to her toes, she realized that toes were good for chewing. Naturally, putting fingers and toes together brought a whole new dimension to life: mobility. Sitting, skooching, lop-sided crawling, standing, stepping while holding on. Now, we’re approaching another more literal monumental step. THE monumental step. The first. I’m not sure I’m really ready because I know one small step for Baby Girl is one giant leap for off-to-the-races. We can only barely contain her perpetual motion as it is, and her brothers are already quite often vexed by her speed, agility and desire to join the game. I can only imagine what ramifications THE step will bring to that scenario.

Still, as I watch Baby Girl, I can’t help but think about that day in October when I first noticed her find her fingers. Look how much she’s grown. Look how far she’s come. Look how our lives around her have changed, just from her ownership of those tiny, precious digits.

In the months since Baby Girl’s discovery, I have been sitting on the cusp of finding fingers for myself. In seasons of dissatisfaction or seeking after something new, I’ve realized that change requires the discovery of my own ownership of where I am. If I want a situation or attitude to be different, I must find my fingers. I must find my action and my will to move. Even if the change I think I seek is in another person, I can only move myself. I’ve been convicted that I must BE the change I want to occur around me.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (psalm 37:4)

Again and again, I’ve come back to that familiar promise. How easily I can focus on the delight and the desires. But, if I step back one verse, I see the first grasp of the fingers. “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” Even before delighting in the Lord Himself comes taking posession of the land He’s put me in. Comes the willingness to live there. The gumption to cultivate it.

If I want a more loving and peaceful home, I must sow seeds of love and peace by my own actions and attitudes. If I want to see new areas of creativity blossom, I must discipline myself to take the steps to weed and water. If I want the description of my daily life to be different, then I must take the effort to cultivate changes row by row, seed by seed and snip by snip. And, that effort begins with the realization that, “Hey, those are mine. I can move them.” Monumental steps, and indeed carefree running, begin with finding fingers.

The tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

Even the Darkness

On Saturday, through a series of perplexing and frustrating circumstances, someone very dear to me almost died. I apologize for neglecting a gentle preface, but I’m still in the state of emotionally catching up. For the last two days, I’ve been in the slow process of processing, switching out of the auto-pilot mode that allowed me to be calm, rational and supportive during a dicey 24-hour period. It was a 24 hours that held wondering, worrying, judging reactions, discerning causes, weighing options, and a few instances of minding somebody else’s business. Confusion is a dark and unknown place. It’s full of fear and concern and resignation.
In the warm light of two days later, our dear one is on the mend. I have been blessed with the opportunity to stand with my mother in support and strength, and I’ve had the chance to fill a gap in serving my father when needed–all the while watching “Cars” a few times and conducting some of our own hot wheel races. Gentlemen, start your engines. In this warm light, I am also witness to the truth of one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible (psalm 139:12). Again.
“Even the darkness is not dark to You”
Through the weekend, we were blinded by the darkness of confusion, of not understanding what was happening, of not knowing what to do, of not even knowing whether something needed to be done. We found ourselves in the place of being forced to let go, to let it be what it is, to release a situation into more capable Hands. I saw with gratitude (and at the same time horror) that our dear one’s life was probably saved because we decided to hold our ground on one simple act. It could have easily gone the other way. It was the difference between joining the family for supper or going to bed early. As seemingly insignificant as that, life and death are intertwined, light and dark. On your mark, get set.
“and the night is as bright as the day.”
I tend to forget how undeniable and unquenchable the God who is Light really is. Where light is, dark cannot remain. Where God is, there is no dark. And, where isn’t God? There is no confusion that can circumvent His knowledge. There is no dark that can cloak His vision and understanding. Thank God.
“Darkness and light are alike to You.”
Now, there’s a radical concept. I’ve noticed how much time we tend to spend classifying people and things and situations into the light and dark categories– wrong, right, good, bad, yes, and no. In the warm light of this day, the shift of dark to light is refreshingly uneventful. My dad has a favorite memory he shares about his training in the National Guard. He talks about his whole unit being gathered into a pitch black room. He always marvels at how quickly their eyes adjusted, and how easily surroundings and people came into focus after just one small flame was lighted. Amazingly, light dispels dark rather quickly, efficiently and indiscriminantly. Light is generous, and despite the unfortunate efforts we sometimes impose on ourselves and others, it is uncontained.
Of the lessons I can boil down from the dark experience of July 4, the foremost is that people are an all-too-brief gift, treasured daily to glean their full worth. The second is that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 john 1:5) The third is that the blackest dark loses its way in the presence of even the smallest light. Even a weak light reflecting its true Source spreads with uncommon power. The light I have to share, though small, can and will impact any sphere in which I choose to shine it.
“Even the darkness is not dark to You.” Go.

On Saturday, through a series of perplexing and frustrating circumstances, someone very dear to me almost died. I apologize for neglecting a gentle preface, but I’m still in the state of emotionally catching up. For the last two days, I’ve been in the slow process of processing, switching out of the auto-pilot mode that allowed me to be calm, rational and supportive during a dicey 24-hour period. It was a 24 hours that held wondering, worrying, judging reactions, discerning causes, weighing options, and a few instances of minding somebody else’s business. Confusion is a dark and unknown place. It’s full of fear and concern and resignation.

In the warm light of two days later, our dear one is on the mend. I have been blessed with the opportunity to stand with my mother in support and strength, and I’ve had the chance to fill a gap in serving my father when needed–all the while watching the movie Cars a few times and conducting some of our own hot wheel races. Gentlemen, start your engines. In this warm light, I am also witness to the truth of one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible (psalm 139:12). Again.

“Even the darkness is not dark to You”

Through the weekend, we were blinded by the darkness of confusion, of not understanding what was happening, of not knowing what to do, of not even knowing whether something needed to be done. We found ourselves in the place of being forced to let go, to let it be what it is, to release a situation into more capable Hands. I saw with gratitude (and at the same time horror) that our dear one’s life was probably saved because we decided to hold our ground on one simple act. It could have easily gone the other way. It was the difference between joining the family for supper or going to bed early. As seemingly insignificant as that, life and death are intertwined, light and dark. On your mark, get set.

“and the night is as bright as the day.”

I tend to forget how undeniable and unquenchable the God who is Light really is. Where light is, dark cannot remain. Where God is, there is no dark. And, where isn’t God? There is no confusion that can circumvent His knowledge. There is no dark that can cloak His vision and understanding. Thank God.

“Darkness and light are alike to You.”

Now, there’s a radical concept. I’ve noticed how much time we tend to spend classifying people and things and situations into the light and dark categories– wrong, right, good, bad, yes, and no. In the warm light of this day, the shift of dark to light is refreshingly uneventful. My dad has a favorite memory he shares about his training in the National Guard. He talks about his whole unit being gathered into a pitch black room. He always marvels at how quickly their eyes adjusted, and how easily surroundings and people came into focus after just one small flame was lighted. Amazingly, light dispels dark rather quickly, efficiently and indiscriminantly. Light is generous, and despite the unfortunate efforts we sometimes impose on ourselves and others, it is uncontained.

Of the lessons I can boil down from the dark experience of July 4, the foremost is that people are an all-too-brief gift, treasured daily to glean their full worth. The second is that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 john 1:5) The third is that the blackest dark loses its way in the presence of even the smallest light. Even a weak light reflecting its true Source spreads with uncommon power. The light I have to share, though small, can and will impact any sphere in which I choose to shine it.

“Even the darkness is not dark to You.” Go.

Bittersweet Independence

The day, being what it is, has me thinking about independence. As I mentioned a few posts ago, there are all kinds of freedom wings being spread at our house. Baby Girl’s newfound joy (and speed) of crawling has added a whole new dimension to the other declarations of independence going on with her brothers. Her crawl usually involves moving with her left knee and her right foot so that she’s ready to sit back with the tiniest effort at a second’s notice to pop the latest find right into her mouth. Apparently, sitting is soooo 9-months. Her new-found independence at 10-months threatens to give Mommy a nervous breakdown, thinking of how infrequently I actually sweep and mop ALL the floors. Her independence has also injected a little wrinkle into Little Drummer Boy and Squiggle’s boy world of toys. It seems cars and trucks are just as interesting to Baby Girl as they are to her brothers, which can make the following realities problematic: 1) Coffee tables (even those found in barns) are just the right height for 10-month old standing; 2) Said coffee tables have heretofore been the domain of car races and tower building perpetrated by brothers; and 3) Where brothers are, Baby Girls should be. Two plus one equals three, and three can rock even the most lively of boy domains.
Yes, Little Drummer Boy and Squiggle are somewhat confused by their baby sister’s independent streak, half surprised that she’s suddenly popping up everywhere, and half perplexed that she doesn’t understand how to take turns. As for Hub and me, we’re just plain shocked (again) at how quickly day to day life changes. Much as we try to hold the reins and slow the gallop to a trot, time is still off to the races. While we take joy at seeing how each of them grows and gains new skills and develops new interests, we hold dearly those rare times when they are still so completely dependent on us, those times when we are their whole world–and they ours.
Independence. Its breaking free is a bittersweet moment. I remember that several months ago Little Drummer Boy went to AWANA all by himself for the first time. Hub normally helped the teachers with crowd control, but had another commitment that night. So, I dropped off LDB in his room and hoped for the best. He goes to preschool every day in the same building with a few of the same children. Still, the situation was different which makes LDB a little more sensitive. When I came back to pick him up about 10 minutes early, they were still having music time. I saw in his eyes that he was torn. It was his newfound independence confronted with the familiar security of Mommy. He was torn between doing his own thing with the songs and running to Mommy for a hug. What a jolt. My presence was actually deterring his independence, making him doubt himself.  He was suddenly self-conscious about doing the motions to Father Abraham, or opting out in favor of his own daydreams. There it was, the bittersweet reality of independence and the need for letting go that’s required to achieve it. His independence and my letting go.
I once had a conversation with LDB’s infant caregiver about the daily concerns of parenthood. I was a brand new parent and she was parenting a grandchild and a son who had made some wrong turns. Through our sharing of stories and sometimes tears, I remember commenting, “When I see him, I can hardly imagine him ever disappointing me. But, I know that one day he will. One day he’ll do something I don’t approve of, and that makes me cry just thinking about it.”
That day has long passed for us with Little Drummer Boy and Squiggle, and Baby Girl’s is coming. But, now I know that the bittersweet independence is tempered by a love that eclipses any disappointment, any white knuckle grip, any reluctance to fly, any insistence on soaring. Perhaps the best and most poignant metaphor for heart-rending independence is the father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, the father who freely and without hesitation gave an inheritance to be squandered. When the poverty of rebellion and forgetfulness came to fruition, he also freely and without hesitation gave acceptance–restoration to an independence gone astray. How I need that. How my babies need it. How we all need it.

The day, being what it is, has me thinking about independence. As I mentioned a few posts ago, there are all kinds of freedom wings being spread at our house. Baby Girl’s newfound joy (and speed) of crawling has added a whole new dimension to the other declarations of independence going on with her brothers. Her crawl usually involves moving with her left knee and her right foot so that she’s ready to sit back with the tiniest effort at a second’s notice to pop the latest find right into her mouth. Apparently, sitting is soooo 9-months. Her new-found independence at 10-months threatens to give Mommy a nervous breakdown, thinking of how infrequently I actually sweep and mop ALL the floors. Her independence has also injected a little wrinkle into Little Drummer Boy and Bug’s boy world of toys. It seems cars and trucks are just as interesting to Baby Girl as they are to her brothers, which can make the following realities problematic: 1) Coffee tables (even those found in barns) are just the right height for 10-month old standing; 2) Said coffee tables have heretofore been the domain of car races and tower building perpetrated by brothers; and 3) Where brothers are, Baby Girls should be. Two plus one equals three, and three can rock even the most lively of boy domains.

Yes, Little Drummer Boy and Bug are somewhat confused by their baby sister’s independent streak, half surprised that she’s suddenly popping up everywhere, and half perplexed that she doesn’t understand how to take turns. As for Hub and me, we’re just plain shocked (again) at how quickly day to day life changes. Much as we try to hold the reins and slow the gallop to a trot, time is still off to the races. While we take joy at seeing how each of them grows and gains new skills and develops new interests, we hold dearly those rare times when they are still so completely dependent on us, those times when we are their whole world–and they ours.

Independence. Its breaking free is a bittersweet moment. I remember that several months ago Little Drummer Boy went to AWANA all by himself for the first time. Hub normally helped the teachers with crowd control, but had another commitment that night. So, I dropped off LDB in his room and hoped for the best. He goes to preschool every day in the same building with a few of the same children. Still, the situation was different which makes LDB a little more sensitive. When I came back to pick him up about 10 minutes early, they were still having music time. I saw in his eyes that he was torn. It was his newfound independence confronted with the familiar security of Mommy. He was torn between doing his own thing with the songs and running to Mommy for a hug. What a jolt. My presence was actually deterring his independence, making him doubt himself.  He was suddenly self-conscious about doing the motions to Father Abraham, or opting out in favor of his own daydreams. There it was, the bittersweet reality of independence and the need for letting go that’s required to achieve it. His independence and my letting go.

I once had a conversation with LDB’s infant caregiver about the daily concerns of parenthood. I was a brand new parent and she was parenting a grandchild and a son who had made some wrong turns. Through our sharing of stories and sometimes tears, I remember commenting, “When I see him, I can hardly imagine him ever disappointing me. But, I know that one day he will. One day he’ll do something I don’t approve of, and that makes me cry just thinking about it.”

That day has long passed for us with Little Drummer Boy and Bug, and Baby Girl’s is coming. But, now I know that the bittersweet independence is tempered by a love that eclipses any disappointment, any white knuckle grip, any reluctance to fly, any insistence on soaring. Perhaps the best and most poignant metaphor for heart-rending independence is the father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, the father who freely and without hesitation gave an inheritance to be squandered. When the poverty of rebellion and forgetfulness came to fruition, he also freely and without hesitation gave acceptance–restoration to an independence gone astray. How I need that. How my babies need it. How we all need it.

Oh Happy Day 0703

colormehappy

Happy Friday, again! This Friday is especially full of fun for me since I’m spending it with my three gifts! I’m thrilled to enjoy a holiday weekend and the extra time to spend playing with trucks, reading stories and pulling things out of Baby Girl’s mouth. Our first little cute tooth is BIG NEWS around these parts! Happy Exhibit A.

Happy Exhibit B comes in the form of a little shameless self-promotion. During the month of June, I had the opportunity to write some articles about color theory for BrightHub.com. They highlighted some of the cultural and emotional associations generally made with each primary and secondary color, and offered considerations on how to use each color in successful design work. It was very interesting for me to research the articles, and I wanted to share them.

Did you know that seeing red causes an increase in adrenaline production, heart rate and blood pressure?
Or, that yellow is universally associated with the sun in almost every culture?
What about the fact that orange is seen as the hottest of all colors in temperature?
Did you know that people tend to be more productive when working in a blue room?
Or, that generally no two greens are perceived to “clash”?
Do you agree that purple signifies eccentricity, artistry and royalty?

Take a peek through the links and add some color to your Friday!

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