The Hide

If I were in Kenya,
this hide would be for watching
animals graze, approach the water,
drink — one would feel small in their presence
and amazed.

That was the kind of hide
I fought in with my brother —
ignoring the graceful movement
of gazelle, the slopping necks
of impossible giraffe. I heard
no birdsong that afternoon, my face
flushed in anger (at what exactly,
who remembers?). There were miracles
happening all around me, and I
as blind as any pharisee.

There are no wonders here
except the mountains — the
midday sun too hot for deer
(though they will come when
the dusk turns the world to purple-
twilight), the birdsong
soft and intermittent, drowned
out by flies and bees — yet
here, too, the wind is in the
branches, the spirit hovers over
the deep, and God cries
in that still, small
voice, Are you listening?

The Hide: Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House


Written during my last silent retreat, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, this past August.

The Water Lily

The water lily proves nothing —
has nothing to prove.

It floats, it rests, it drinks deep,
it grows, and beauty spills out in every petal.

Iona Esperanza


I wrote this poem during my last silent retreat, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, this past August. But it seems particularly appropriate for meeting the newest member of my family, my new niece, who is two months old today.

Evening

Dusk, and nature has reclaimed
her canvas.

The sun sinks below the purple
mountains (velvet gossamer in twilight)
and the deer emerge, spotted and wary, ears
large and cautious, to frolic on the watered grass.


Written during my last silent retreat, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, this past August.

The Names of Things

Annie Dillard says that writing is knowing the names of things.

So I ask the birds, the trees, the flowers. But while not exactly
silent, the birds speak no words that I can hear, the trees
seem more interested in magnifying praise than talking of themselves,
and the flowers miss the point entirely.

“Yellow!” They cry. “Purple, pink, white, wine, yellow, white, blue!”

When I tell them those are colors, and not, in fact, their names,
they merely shrug, unconcerned, as though to say,
well, they’re more than enough for us.

And who am I to argue?


Written during my last silent retreat, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, this past August.

The Lily Pond

Sharp origami petals open in kimono hues —
pastel pinks, yellows, whites.

And just two, at the very back, a rich,
bright wine — I’ll have my dresses made
from those, please.

This is no Monet, this garden —
no soft, impressionist blues, but greens
as far as the eye can see. Dusky desert
shrubs and evergreens, swamp weeds growing
alongside too-tall cattails and yellow
wildflowers on pine-strewn ground.

And one single purple flower by my chair,
as though it knew I was coming and saved
the best seat in the house.

And the wren sings heartily —
is it telling of its joy in lily pads
or just mentioning the coming rain?
Or maybe it, too, is greeting
my arrival with its song.

Why not? After all, I am the bridegroom’s beloved,
and this is mine as well as theirs — I, too,
their sister, a glorious created thing.


Written during my last silent retreat, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, this past August.

The Hawks

Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House
Easter Sunday

As I walk these paths —
the delicate pink water lilies
open now to the radiance of the sun,
sheltering goldfish beneath the shadows
of their leaves — welcomed everywhere
by the verdant green, the moving water,
and the silent call of butterflies
delighted in their dance, I am met
by two brown hawks with snowy breasts,
unblinking gaze.

Hail sister, they seem to say,
unconcerned by my passing. We, too, are the Lord’s
creatures. We, too, are kin to a king.

IMG_20190816_105124127

An Ode to Wonder

“Part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what it is you really love.” –Shauna Niequist

i.

Fall in love with one thing
every day, the poet said. It is
the last great expanse — the unknown
of the human heart. Love is all the adventure
left on this small globe — save the ocean — all
the adventure left in this universe — save the
unplumbable distance between the stars. And isn’t it
much the same? Those galaxies of dark and light,
those mysteries of depth, of height, reminding one
that one is small. That God is big. That wonder
is the only reasonable response to all this
space — all that is unknown, unknowable, and real.

ii.

The snow fell today in flurries.
I watched it dance from where I sat on the couch,
the glass doors closed to keep the warmth in,
the white crystals out. But now the mountains
are peaking through the clouds and the sky
is robin-egg blue — and speaking
of robins, one hopped onto the picnic table
where I sat, six weeks ago, drinking a coffee
at a tea shop in the English Lakes. Come to say
hello. To say, we missed you. To say,
you were not forgotten.

iii.

I know enough of goodbyes
to know why we close our hearts
behind glass walls built of facts
and science and reasonable explanations —
but there is poetry in truth, for however we arrived
on this planet, and however we leave its shores,
we are an entangled species that knows the world
through touch, through taste, through the sound of our
own breath leaving lungs we did nothing to create.
We know best through proximity, embrace — know the corner
of the world we’ve loved — and know (let us admit it)
little enough else.

iv.

I don’t pretend to understand
why an acacia grows so different from her cousin
the redwood. Even less, why the sight of her branches
spread against the backdrop of an African sky
causes my spirit to join her in mute but persistent
song — in longing, in adoration, in strains of Hallelujah.
But I will not do you — do her — the injustice
of explaining it away.

v.

We are creatures made for worship.

Inspired by Reid Carpenter’s “8 Stanzas Are Enough for Now,” Sarah Halvorson’s “Sunrise from Plum Island,” Nikki Giovanni’s conversation with Krista Tippett, and all the poets who remind me to live with my eyes, and heart, and hands wide open.

October Delight | Words of Wednesday

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. –L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


Friends Going Leaf Peeping: Colorado AspensI got that October feeling today. You know the one. Where the sky is grey, and the air is crisp, and you’re inside, and warm, surrounded by laughing strangers, as you sip your pumpkin spice latte (with whipped cream and an extra shot, because, why not?) and everything is a bit golden, a bit bright, a bit tinged with that holiday-feeling. With that sense of magic. The world, for no particular reason, a bit right.

It always makes me miss Oxford, that feeling. Oxford, where I first fell in love with autumn. Oxford, where the college ivy will be turning red, and wool sweaters will make their appearance on High Street, and pubs and tea shops will be bright and cheery with students and tourists, and the Bodleian lights will glow in the early dusk.

But I’m not in Oxford today. I’m in Colorado — adding one more place to the patchwork mosaic that is my definition of “home.” In Colorado, watching the sun dip behind the mountains, turning the sky the color of golden aspens (mixed with just a hint of that Oxford ivy). In Colorado, living with two of my dearest friends, reading Anne of Green Gables aloud, running every morning (have I ever seen so many sunrises?), cooking dinners, watching anime, playing board games, editing dissertations, listening to audiobooks, and seeking, with Anne, to live every moment of it fiercely alive. 

October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry-trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in aftermaths.

Anne revelled in the world of color about her.

“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with arms full of gorgeous boughs. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill — several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.”

–L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, ch. 16

Aren’t you glad we live in a world with Octobers?

Have I Lived Enough? | Words of Wednesday

The Gardener

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusions?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

Mary Oliver


From Mary Oliver’s 2012 collection, A Thousand Mornings.

The year (my year) is drawing to a close, and I find myself wrestling (as always) with questions of what it means to live well, to live fully. Have I shown up enough? Have I been present enough? Have I done enough? Have I been enough?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. But I do know that I got up every weekday morning, drank matcha, and talked to, fed, played with, cuddled, and generally spent time with my nephew. 

And, somehow, none of the rest of it seems to matter quite as much.

Magnus and Aunty Kar laughing on the couch

Adulting | Words of Wednesday

To grow to adulthood as a social species, including humans, is not to become autonomous and solitary, it’s to become the one on whom others can depend.
–John Cacioppo

Walking with the Nephew


My favorite definition of adulthood.

Quoted in Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown.

Note: I listened to this book in audio format, so I’m relying on a combination of my own and others’ transcriptions (thank you, internet) without the ability to double check punctuation against the original text. I apologize for any errors in accuracy.