Monday, November 30, 2009


I don't think I'd heard of Dubai until last year, when I was flying to (or from) Europe, and the airline's magazine had an article about the place, describing its phenomenally quick growth, its amazing wealth, and a Disneyworld-like project that was underway.

I remember thinking it sounded crazy, a city growing that quickly and that extravagantly. But the article was so positive, as if this were the normal way for things to happen when smart people learn how to manage money.

I didn't think much more about it until a few months ago, when I heard a story about Dubai on public radio. The economic problems had finally reached that area of the world, and all those construction projects were put on hold, or stopped completely.

It was a very sad story, because men from other countries had moved to Dubai, hired by these big contruction firms, hoping to be able to send money home to their families. Instead, they were now stuck in Dubai without work, living ten and fourteen to a two-room apartment, with no income and no way to get back home. And the companies that brought them there were not offering to help get them back home.

It was terrible.

Today I heard another brief reference to Dubai, again on the radio. Ky Risdall was talking about being over there last year for a story on the amazing growth of the boomtown (my word, not his, as I recall) and how now there is no doubt that the amazing growth was built on untenable risk-taking, like certain enterprises in our own little part of the world that led up to the current situation.

I was struck by his saying, "The funny thing is that everyone over there knew what was happening, but no one seemed to care."

Seems true of so many projects undertaken by us human beings. Maybe some can claim ignorance, but a lot of people know that what we're doing isn't smart (e.g., polluting the very world we depend on for life), but we really don't seem to care.

What does it take to get people to care? I don't know for sure, but I think it has something to do with the building of community that Wendell Berry so heartily champions. When we think only of ourselves, we take foolish risks and don't think about bigger pictures and longer terms. When we think about how our decisions affect others, present and future, we act more wisely, and, I hope, more kindly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two Leaves

These two leaves caught my attention when I was walking recently. Of course the larger one did, because of its color. But I took the picture because of the way they were there together. They look like friends.

I've decided I want to read Wendell Berry. I've been reading excerpts from his work here and there for the past decade or more, and each time I do, I feel less lonely, even though I don't go around thinking that I am lonely.

It's just that he is so connected. Not connected to the Internet or to a network of friends on Facebook. In fact, I wonder if he ever has given in and bought a computer. He certainly wasn't planning to back in 1987, according to an essay I read.

But he is so connected to the land, to values I share. He believes in the importance of the local and of community among people. He believes technology should be seriouly evaluated before being accepted and used; like the Amish and Menonnites, he sees that technology can often harm or destroy community if not carefully chosen. He believes in taking care of the earth and living carefully, thoughtfully, slowly. Like a human being, on a human scale.

When I read or hear his words, I have the comforting thought that I'm not the only one who thinks our world is more than a bit mad. Not in a funny way--people are often saying, "Oh, this world's just crazy, isn't it?" and then going right on to join in the craziness. But I mean realizing that the world really is significantly messed up, and trying to find ways to resist the craziness.

Recently I came across the following, and I guess that's what had made me decide I need to not be satisfied with discovering excerpts, but actually seek him out and learn from him:

When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be -- I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bozo's and Brownsville

Today was one of those days that help you connect past, present, and future.

Drazen and I drove to Brownsville. We took Highway 70 instead of the interstate. This was, after all, a free day, with no need for hurry.

Driving Hwy. 70 takes me back to my younger years in a way the interstate never could. If we had driven I-40 all those years, I suppose my only memories would be of whatever book I was reading at the time, or maybe of a water tower or two that you see along the way. Or the inevitable sibling squabbles that were part of every longish trip we made.

But Highway 70, with its two lanes and slower pace, was made for looking out the windows and noticing things. The nurseries and concrete statues along the way while it's still called Summer Avenue, the undulating hills that start up once you leave city limits, the cotton fields with flowery white beauty against their darker stems, the horses and cows in their pastures, the quaint houses in small towns, and eventually the swampy Loosahatchie and Hatchie bottoms were always enough to hold my interest for an hour.

And today we did something that I always wanted to do when I was growing up. We stopped in Mason and had lunch at Bozo's Hot Pit BBQ. Growing up, we did eat barbeque from Bozo's, but it was never on our way to Grandmother's. I remember going there as a group, a whole bunch of us, maybe for someone's birthday, after we'd gotten to Brownsville. And I remember various family members being sent to pick up barbeque to eat back at Grandmother's. But to just stop on the way and sit down and eat--this was a first.

For those who don't know, Bozo's has been around since 1923. The servers were all wearing tee-shirts celebrating their 86th anniversary. And this is the place used to film part of the 2005 movie Walk the Line. I remember when watching the movie thinking it looked awfully like Bozo's and being delighted to learn via the credits that indeed it was.

So, we had lunch, then drove on up the road. We visited my 91-year-old third cousin, then walked around the square, where many of the businesses have changed names and purpose over the years. But The Economy Store, which Granddaddy was part of starting, is still going strong--with different owners for many decades now, but still related to the original other owners, and related to the cousin we visited.

Granddaddy's "Christmas Furniture Store" (last name was Christmas) is now "Lock, Stock, and Barrel," but it was neat to peer in the windows and see that it is at least still a furniture store.

After that we went to my grandparents' house, whose current owners have graciously given me permission to enjoy the grounds if ever they are not home and I want to stop by. So we walked around, seeing how the sweetheart roses and crepe myrtle have grown, how the family is still using the same old swing frame--and of course I had to sit and swing a while. We looked at this plant and that birdhouse, the laundry line and the doghouse, and naturally each time I looked in any direction, images of people and memories of events came along with the views.

From there we went to the cemetery, and for the first time I actually didn't cry too very much. I tend to get very caught up in the past when I go there alone, being hit with the thought that an entire part of life is just over--but somehow being there today with Drazen, and the fact that we had gone to Bozo's and planned to go again, made a difference. It sounds funny, but it really did.

We looked around for a while at the various gravestones. For America, it's a pretty old cemetery. Another time I'll have to share some photos I made there on a visit with my sister a while back.

Then the sun was getting quite low, and we left. We drove back via Koko Road, with its beautiful tree tunnels and cotton fields and curvy hills. Then back through Stanton and again to Bozo's, this time for a shared piece of German chocolate pie. And we even got sandwiches to take home for Sunday lunch. (Meat, slaw, and buns all packed separately, of course. You can't beat their customer service.)

Then back home to Memphis, with the memory of a lovely day to savor. And the thought that we'll go back again just made the whole day better.

A church down the road from Bozo's, photo taken on another trip. No snow here yet!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Moving Thoughts

Ha,ha. Not that I expect anything I write just now will be moving. No, tonight it's just thoughts on the subject of moving. Maybe the first of a series. Time will tell.

This is our first time to both sell and buy a house. We've moved before, more than once. But it was from house to house (to house, to house....) the first three months of our marriage, visiting friends and family as guests. Then it was the big move across the ocean, to live in Zagreb for two years in a rented house, then moving from there to the house we shared with Drazen's parents.

Then we crossed back over the ocean to live in a little bitty (for America) apartment at the graduate school, and after three years moved into a larger apartment on campus.

Then we bought the house we live in. So it's the first house we ever bought, and we bought it from its owners. We met them from the get-go, and we wound up meeting their friends and being introduced to many of our neighbors through them, so that we quickly felt at home.

The whole thing of going through real estate agents has been a new experience. And rather strange for me, since before we just talked directly to the owners of the house.

As it is now, we haven't even met the people whose house we will be buying. And had I not happened to come home when I did the first time our potential buyer looked at our house (thinking he would have already left), I would not have met him. It's all done via the agents. Whenever we've gone to look at other houses, no one is home, which to me feels very strange.

And so I find it interesting, given this indirect, impersonal way of looking for and checking out houses, that the following has transpired.

On that day I happened to come home while our looker was finishing up his looking, the first thing he said to me was, "You guys have the greatest books!" (I hear the conventional wisdom is that houses with lots of books don't attract buyers.) It turns out he is working on a Masters in English literature, so of course he noticed all the literature and other interesting stuff that lines our shelves.

Not only that, but as we talked a bit and he learned that Drazen works at a particular neurosurgery clinic, I learned that he is related to one of the founding surgeons.

Pretty cool, is it not? But that's not all.

Curious about the owners of the house we are set to buy, and with Google at our disposal, I looked them up. It turns out that she is a therapist. I don't know her, but I recognized her name because a friend of mine once shared office space with her.

And when we were looking at their house a third time, pretty much set on making an offer, I couldn't help but notice an awful lot of American and English literature on their bookshelves.

So, I'm wondering if we may have three people in a row with English degrees buying and selling houses to each other. And two of us therapists, and then the connection with Drazen's job. Who would have thought it could happen with real estate agents in the mix the whole way and no personal connections among the sellers/buyers? I know stranger things have happened, but I find it rather unusual in a very cool way.

And it certainly makes it easier for me to leave our house, knowing we're leaving it in the hands of someone whose first words were, "You guys have the greatest books!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Memories of the day--

sixteen people around two tables;

the loveliness of knowing exactly what would be on the menu;

using Grandmother's measuring spoons, recipes, and serving silver;

hearing belly laughter from the four youngest as they watched a movie;

crunching through the leaves in the park, eleven of us, between dinner and dessert;

singing the Doxology, enjoying the beautiful harmonies of my singing family's voices;

burning the candle that once burned in Grandmother's house;

and giving thanks from the heart, knowing we truly are blessed beyond all we could have asked or imagined.

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kitchen Thanksgivings

I Just love this pie plate I found last year on sale in a Hallmark shop. I'm not a big shopper and generally don't buy things on impulse, but this was too sweet and at too good a price not to bring home. It's hoping to hold a pecan pie tomorrow, though, not an apple pie.

This was the first time I ever bought whole carrots. They are just beautiful. So different from the bagged type with the green cut off.

Our little version of the horn of plenty.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Touched by God Himself

I offered to let my sister write a guest-post while I was out of town and away from the computer, but I see she didn't take me up on the offer.

She did, however, post that last Kierkegaard prayer, so many thanks to you, Lisa.

I've been away and have photos and things to share, but it's late, so that will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime, a quote from St. John of the Cross that has been with me recently:

For when once the will
Is touched by God Himself
It cannot be satisfied
Except by God....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Prayers of Kierkegaard, IV

Father in Heaven!
Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins
So that the thought of Thee when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens,
Should not remind us of what we have committed, but of what Thou didst forgive,
Not of how we went astray but of how Thou didst save us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prayers of Kierkegaard, III

Father in Heaven,
Well we know that it is Thou
That giveth both to will and to do,
That also longing,
When it leads us to renew
The fellowship with our Savior and Redeemer,
Is from Thee.
Father in Heaven, longing is Thy gift.
But when longing lays hold of us,
Oh, that we might lay hold of the longing!
When it would carry us away,
That we also might give ourselves up!
When Thou art near to summon us,
That we also in prayer might stay near Thee!
When Thou in the longing dost offer us
the highest good,
oh, that we might hold it fast!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prayers of Kierkegaard, II

Lord Jesus Christ
Who suffered all life long
that I, too, might be saved,
and Whose suffering still knows no end,
This, too, wilt Thou endure:
saving and redeeming me,
this patient suffering of me
with whom Thou hast to do—
I, who so often go astray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prayers of Kierkegaard, I

O Thou Who art unchangeable,
Whom nothing changes,
May we find our rest and remain at rest
in Thee unchanging.
Thou art moved
and moved in infinite love by all things:
the need of a sparrow, even this moves Thee;
and what we scarcely see,
a human sigh,
this moves Thee, O infinite Love!
But nothing changes Thee, O Thou unchanging!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Who wants a life imprisoned in safety?

Everyone has oceans to fly, as long as you have the heart to fly them.

Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?

The world has changed me.

Lines from the movie Amelia, which I just saw for the third time. Most years I make only three or four visits to the theater at all.

Here's to flying oceans...and to courage, to having the heart to fly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Deal with My Blog

Here's the deal.

When I started this blog, things were not as advanced in the technology as they are now. You wrote your stuff, and it got archived by the month.

Then things started changing. There was a period of time when Blogger was testing some new program (or something; I'm not sure what the right word it), and it made everything more complicated for a while, though they said it was going to make things easier.

Then at some point you had to choose whether to change over to the new way or keep the old way. I chose to keep the old way at the time, thinking I could change later if I wanted to.

Then I noticed that John Michael Talbot's blog had the same basic look as mine, but that it was in a different format from mine, more techno-looking and not as classic and pretty.

Then I tried to put a counter on my blog, because a friend said she was able to see from what countries people were reading her blog, and I thought that would be fun. But to install (if that's the right verb) the counter, it said I would have to switch my blog over to whatever it was that makes it more complicated. And it said that making the switch might cause me to lose some things.

I decided it wasn't worth it.

But in the meantime, everybody's blogs have this ability to tag things and archive them by subject matter and titles, rather than just seeing a month and year--and now I've written so much that there's no way to find old things, unless I happen to remember the time of year I wrote it. And I doubt anyone else cares, but I would kind of like to be able to find my old posts more easily, and to group them by themes.

And I'm wondering, if I did switch over, what exactly would I lose? And how long would it take me to go back and "tag" everything? And in the long run, would it really even matter?

I think I would have to switch the whole look, because if doing that meant that my blog would end up looking like JMT's, I just wouldn't want to look at it. Not that it's terrible; it's just not so pretty. Well, I just went to look at his and learned that it has been removed; I guess he's just relying on Facebook for communicating these days.

Oh, oh! And update: I just happened to find the blog of a distant friend while ago via Facebook, and he uses the same template with the new look. Somehow, looking at his, it doesn't seem quite as techno-uglified as the other way I had seen it....but it does lose a certain simplicity. (I had no idea this friend was a pen-lover. I would be too, if I could ever make enough money to indulge the habit.) Anyway, here it is, for comparison's sake:

Well, I'm not about to make any major changes right now. Too many other things up in the air to add one more.

But for the future, I wonder if any of you can tell me how much trouble it is to switch over a blog from the old-fashioned way to the new way, or what I'm in danger of losing....


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday!

I came across an article by a dad suggesting that the best two gifts you could give to your dad were 1) to live your own life well, and 2) to assemble a collage of pictures of the two of you together over the years.

Well, I'm doing the best I can with number one. And the truth is, I don't have that many pictures of my dad and myself together, so number two would be kind of hard to do.

Actually, I don't have many photographs of us together. But I do have pictures, lots of them. They're just in my mind, not on paper.

So here's a collage to celebrate Daddy's birthday today.

I remember Daddy climbing up the big sweetgum tree to help me down, the one time I climbed too high and couldn't figure it out on my own. He couldn't actually get me down because I was up where the branches weren't as strong. He talked me down. "Put your left foot on that branch over there....Now hold on to the branch on the right side, and let your right foot come down to that branch on the other side...." until soon I was safe again.

I remember him meeting me at the bottom of the stairs after Bible class at church, by the water fountain. And with both a smile and a little regret, I remember the time I asked him to stop calling me "Sheil-o-bean" there in front of my friends! I was five then, and that just didn't seem dignified enough to me.

I remember going to work with him, sitting in a college student desk, amazed at the carvings and drawings I saw on the desk. I doubt I understood a thing he was saying up there at the front of the room, but I thought it was neat that he was the teacher.

I remember him in the garden, often in the garden, telling me what he had planted where, and I amazed that he could remember, because they all looked so much alike when they were just little green shoots coming up.

I remember him in the front seat of the car, me in the back behind him, everyone else asleep as we drove all the way out to Gallup, New Mexico. I was astounded that he could find his way so far, having never even been there before, and never once getting lost! (I didn't understand then how the Interstate system worked.)

I remember going out with him to the Harding Farm, where he kept his beehives, and how he would get all dressed in the protective clothing and the safari-looking hat with the veil all around, and how we would watch from afar, admiring his courage as he walked right into the midst of a hive of bees, or smoked them out. He taught us to stay calm when bees were around. "If you can stay calm, they will, too, and you won't get stung." It wasn't always easy, but it was a lesson that applies to much more than bees.

I remember too many things, way too many things, to be able to write about it all here. He is one of the most intelligent, humblest, and gentlest people I have ever known. He knows the meaning of love and faithfulness as few people do. He can diagram complex sentences and used to read his Greek New Testament in church--and he can communicate just fine with the countriest people of rural Arkansas, as those of the churches where he used to preach.

He's my daddy. My sister and I asked if we would need to call him Pa when we moved from town out into the country. And when he got his doctorate, we sometimes called him Dr. Daddy. And it was strange in college to hear all my friends call him Dr. Underwood. But even when I was in his advanced grammar class, he was still Daddy to me. And always will be.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mr. Wright

It's a photo of a photo I took when I was sixteen, I think. Maybe seventeen. I keep in on my prayer desk, in a frame that lines the photo with a quote from Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

His name was Ray Wright, and she is Ann, his wife. We were standing around the campfire, and I was so glad she showed up in the photo with him, given how dark it was. She meant the world to him, and I knew that simply by being in his English class. I wonder if any man ever loved his wife as deeply as he loved her.

And I wonder if any student ever loved her English teacher as deeply as I loved him. I met him when I was not yet his student. For some reason, I went to him after school and asked for his feedback on something I had written. (Now I can hardly believe I had the courage to do that, I was so shy back then. Must have been an unusual day.) He looked over whatever it was and said he looked forward to having me in his class the next year.

He taught me literature and grammar and vocabulary and writing skills, for which I will always be grateful. But more than that, he became my friend and taught me how to live. He was a very wise man, with a mind and heart that to me seemed bottomless. I could talk to him about anything, and did whenever I got the chance.

When I left for college, and he left for his PhD, we exchanged letters. The excerpt from one below gives you some idea of his wisdom. I realize now, though I did not then, that probably not many PhD students would take the time he did to respond to my letters with letters of two and three handwritten, single-spaced pages. This one was written in response to my struggling with the expectations I had absorbed from being a scholarship-financed student with multiple areas of ability, not knowing how to say "no" to anyone or anything, and consequently almost literally falling apart my freshman year:

Potential is such a deceptive term. There is always a degree of theoretical excellence that a person could achieve, but the product, potential, is the result of many factors which must include weariness, pleasure-seeking, lack of interest, and such things, all of which are a part of being human. When we say, "If I weren't so lazy, I could...," we aren't talking about potential; we are talking about utopian daydreams. What I ought to be must include consideration of my tendencies to be less...Get your rest. Decide what you can do without in your life, and simplify. Pray for wisdom. Look for everlastingness and cling to it. Be thankful for simple pleasures.

In another letter, he wrote about singing in the Ole Miss chorus at the Kennedy Center, the thrill of being in the place, and the beauty of Samuel Barber's setting of the Prayers of Kierkegaard.

He wrote about how he detested some of his classes and professors and the pomp and pride he witnessed in the world of academia, the lack of love for the literature and the lack of love among faculty, the competition and disregard for students. He didn't exactly discourage my ideas about heading for the Ivy League for graduate work, but he certainly opened my eyes to what it might actually look like.

He wrote about how much he missed his wife while away at school, and about marriage. He wrote about faith, and God, and how to have hope in this world by treasuring the small things, the simple things.

He could, I am certain, have gone to the Ivy League, if he'd wanted to. Or he could have sung or acted often in Kennedy Center or similar places, if he'd wanted to. He was very gifted as a writer, a teacher, a singer, and an actor.

But he wanted more than anything to be with his family and to make a difference in ways that actually mattered to people's lives. So he stayed in a small town at a small school that shared his values. He lived a quiet, simple life. In his later years, he took up golf and from what I heard surpassed people who had been playing for decades.

Then he got cancer, endured its horrific pain and the treatments for a few years, and then he died. On November 14, 2002. Seven years ago today. He had gone into a coma a few days earlier, and I actually drove to Searcy on the 14th in hopes of seeing him, but it turned out that I was driving to attend his memorial service.

The last time I saw him was at church in Searcy, in the hallway. We talked as we walked, he limping from pain, as the cancer had moved into his bones. He had been working on a sonnet, his last, and he stopped to recite it to me:

[Sonnet: Meditations on Dying]

It’s such an inconvenient thing to die,
To sink away from all we’ve known of love.
It feels so final when we say goodbye,
For only faith has seen those realms above.
The fading soul cries out for light, for breath,
More days to laugh, to love, to think, to be,
While pain-wracked nerve-ends plead for numbing death
And quiet rest for all eternity.
How shall we know, then, which of these to choose?
We hardly know what is, what merely seems.
Then give us, Lord, what we can never lose
When what we’ve known as life has turned to dreams.
Thus, self, and thought, and love will never die,
And we, in Him, shall never say good bye.

That memory is a precious gift.

I always felt that I was given another kind of gift, in that less than two weeks before that, while singing Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna with our chorus, he came into my mind. He was ill then, but I had no idea he was so close to a coma or to death. We were just singing that gorgeous music, and I thought, "Mr. Wright would have loved this," and for most of the piece I just had him there in my heart, imagining him enjoying the music.

It was my last time to "be" with him during his life. And, coincidentally, our singing that night with Mr. Lauridsen himself present, led to our singing his music not in the Kennedy Center, but in Carnegie Hall, which then again became a connecting place with memories of Mr. Wright. A couple of years later we also sang Barber's Prayers of Kierkegaard, which was another gift.

He was himself such a gift, and he left a wonderful gift behind, a poem that he wrote back when I was his young English student. I remember him talking way back then about the trip to the Grand Canyon that inspired the poem. And I will never forget hearing Dennis Organ, one of my college English professors, reading the poem at the memorial service, at the request of Mr. Wright's beloved wife. Here it is:

Perspective (Posthumous)

Once in Arizona, dearest love, looking down,
We stood hand in hand
And watched mules, tourists, guides,
And even airplanes (looking down!)
Diminish beyond our sight
Into the vastness of a canyon bright
We called—truly called, for such it was—
How many selves the size of us,
We guessed,
Would needs be multiplied
(Our life space being, more or less,
Though to us, all)
To fill such emptiness?

Set down in such a splendid place,
We seemed of such a puny race.
Yet would we not, in God’s good time,
We guessed,
When we were one with Him
Who fills all space
Think back (looking down)
Upon such “grandness”
And smile at our presumption?

And now, my dearest love,
You stand (looking down)
Before the canyon of your grief,
Vast beyond belief,
For I, who filled the splendor of your life,
Am gone.
I know, for you to me were all.

And I, my puny self at last set free
To fill, with God, His infinite space,
Can say to you that we,
You and I—and He
(Looking down) will one day stand
And smile
To see that this chasm which you call
(Truly call, for such it seems)
Is really, when we escape our finite dreams,
An almost invisible scratch
On an infinitesimal table top
On an insignificant patch
Of an earth diminishing,
To a stop.

--Ray A. Wright

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Home Is Not for Sale

Ever since we moved back to America, it has bothered me that I see signs saying, "Home for Sale." When I first saw that phrase, I thought naively, "Oh, that's ridiculous. It's a house for sale, not a home. Whoever made those signs will get some feedback and stop printing them that way."

Boy, was I wrong! I can't even remember the last time I saw a "House for Sale" sign, but I see "Home for Sale" everywhere these days. Especially these days, as we are looking at the possibility of moving.

My guess is that it was someone's attempt to make a house sound cozier, more personal, or something. No doubt marketing was behind the change in words.

Or is there more to it than that? Is it possible that in our culture of broken homes, of jobs moving people all over the nation, of TV shows that make you wonder if there is such thing as a normal set of family relationships, that some people really don't know the difference between a house and a home? That the word home has no meaning for them beyond the walls that house a person or group of people? I wonder if houses being treated like investments is part of the picture, too.

I don't know. I just know that the signs have bothered me ever since I began seeing them.

When I hear "home for sale," I think of someone willing to give more time at the office than they are at home, giving up home life to make more money. Or "home for sale" could mean that someone is willing to trade commitment to their wedding vows for attention from another person and a distorted fulfillment of some emotional, or other, desire.

The phrase just gets me. I realize it's a technicality, that the dicionary on my desk does list "house" as one definition of home.

But if home is where your heart is, then how can your home ever be for sale?

As we are looking at houses and considering moving, I feel a great resistance to the process. I hate moving. Not just because of the hard work of packing and unpacking and making all the adjustments--but because this house has become my home. Our time and energy and love and memories have gone into this particular house, and when we leave it, the next house won't have those. Not yet.

But those things are also not for sale. The person who moves into this house next time will not share those memories. They may paint over all our chosen colors and the faux finish that took me night after night to complete. They won't know how long I spent thinking about the kitchen redo, or the hours it took to pull up all the pachysandra in the front yard. They won't know that I got the bricks for the flowerbed from our neighbor's dismantled chimney, and they won't remember the hours Drazen and I spent setting them in place, and they won't know that two of the bricks came from Grandmother's yard.

The memories will go with us, even though the flowerbed cannot. And in the next house, we will choose colors and paint walls and arrange our furniture. We will cook meals and sit together at the table night after night. We'll have friends and family over. We'll laugh and cry and share life, day after day. And that house will become a home. I have to remind myself of this in order to be able to make the move, if indeed we go through with it.

So, my home is not for sale. The house is, for now. But the home will be where our hearts are.

You can imagine that I was happy a few months ago, listening as Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio interviewed two professors who are teaching Wendell Berry to their college students. In a conversation about the importance of community in Berry's writing, one of them quoted him as saying, "If it's for sale, it's not a home."

Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed the signs and was bothered.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


It must have been in college, I think. I was reading an issue of National Geographic. The place I most often read those was at Grandmother's house.

Back in high school I harbored the dream of one day traveling the world, writing and photographing for the magazine. That was back when I actually printed pictures in a dark room and experienced photography as a real adventure. (Not that it isn't now, but it certainly doesn't have the same challenge appeal for me anymore. Or maybe it just fed my ego then, since it was much harder back then to take good pictures?) It was also before I realized how taxing continual travel is to me as a person.

Anyway, I used to read National Geographic passionately, and at some point in those years I came across an article on ginkgo trees.

As far as I know, I had never seen a ginkgo tree at that time in my life; small-town Searcy didn't have much beyond the native tress, I don't think.

So I read this article about these ancient trees, thought to be the most primitive tree still alive today, possibly around back with the dinosaurs. And I saw photos of shimmering gold, fan-shaped leaves, and I wondered if I would ever get to see such a tree.

So you can imagine my delight here in Memphis, where we have at least two ginkgos on our very street, one around the corner, a couple at church, four in a row on a street near our neighborhood, and four in a row at my new counseling office. I see ginkgos daily!

And they never disappoint.

They're beautiful even on the ground, scatterings of fallen gold.

Blue sky is their best backdrop.

Blue tablecloth is nice, too. I always have to bring a little bit of ginkgo home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New York Public Library

Just for fun, and because it's late and I just remembered I needed to do this!

This is from our trip to New York a few years ago, when my chorus got to sing at Carnegie Hall. Both of us managed to forget to bring the camera, so I decided to do some sketches along the way, just so we had something to remember the trip by.

So, here is Drazen in front of the library. When I finished it, I realized that he looked rather lionish. Do you see it, too?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday for Tuesday

Even though I already wrote today, that was for yesterday. So I'll feel better if I post again just for today, being the recovering legalist that I am.

Tonight I'd like to share a quote that I came across recently while reading Kay Redfield Jamison's book Exuberance. She is quoting from Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, who wrote the line for the character Toad, who is nothing if not exuberant.

I hope it will mean as much to you as it has to me.

"O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!"

Oops and Order


Is it possible that at 7am here, it is still November 9 somewhere else?

I completely forgot to do anything here yesterday

I remember in college hearing Mike Cope say something in a sermon that has stuck with me these 20 or so years. Note that this is not the only thing he said that stayed with me--there were also more profound things.

In this case, I don't even remember what the point of the sermon was. I just remember that on his way to the point, he said something like, "You know how you have certain ways of doing things, and you have to do those things in a certain order? And if that order gets messed up somehow, it just doesn't feel right, and you feel kind of messed up the rest of the day?" He related it to a toothbrushing routine, as I recall.

What I remember vividly is that when I heard that, I thought, "No. No, I'm not like that. I have almost no order to the way I do things. I used to, but coming to college and living in the dorm changed everything, and I lost my abilitly to do things in order." I even began to wonder if something might be wrong with me!

Well, now I know that order is important in ways I couldn't have guessed back then. One of my main emphases in working with severely depressed people or people with bipolar disorder, is to help get order and routine back into their lives. There's even a name for this and a book about it.

Our memories lean heavily on order and routine. Our biorhythms depend on the steadfastness of light and dark, and eating at more or less the same times each 24-hour period.

And my life has not had much order or routine since January, when I lost my job with Christ Community. I've done what I can to create routine for myself, but without the pegs of similarity among days, I haven't been terribly successful. And when each day is different from the others, and there is not even a lot of similarity from week to week, it just makes it even harder when plans that I have been counting on and framing my thinking around, get changed at the last minute, as happened with three planned events yesterday.

So, congratulations to me for surviving this rather chaotic time period. I'm not gonna worry too much about missing a blog post.

And maybe another time I'll share about the things Mike Cope said that he may have actually hoped would stay in his listeners' minds!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Beautiful Yesterday

Yesterday we went for a walk.

It was simply too splendid a day to stay inside too much.

I almost consider it sinful to stay in on a beautiful blue-sky day,

the sin of ingratitude being taken quite seriously by saints and poets alike,
and sin meaning to miss the mark--which certainly happens when a day or a moment like this goes unappreciated.

At any rate, yesterday was a day to be thankful,

and it was wonder-full,

and wonderful being with my husband,

and wonderful being in the woods,

and wonderful simply being.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Christmas in November

Celebrating the birthday of my grandmother, Mildred Evans Christmas, beautiful both to see and to know. Born into this world 93 years ago, she stayed here 87 years, and lives on forever in my heart and in those of many others.

And as beautiful as she was, I never saw this picture of her until after her death.

I celebrated her today by getting outside for a morning walk, drinking hot tea, reading from a good book, and sending someone else a birthday card. I've never looked much like her, but I want to be like her in ways that matter more.

Friday, November 06, 2009


National Blog Posting Month entered my universe last year via my friend Lucy's blog, Box Elder , and I can assure you that a rich feast awaits you if you read her blog this month.

I can't promise the same here at Folk, Flocks, and Flowers.

That said, however, something just got into me and I think it would be good for me to try making myself write on a daily basis. I don't know what I'll write about, which makes this a great time to start, since the month of November has no theme for NaBloPoMo-ers to concern themselves with.

So I'm really doing this more for myself than for my readers, and I think it fair to warn you of that in advance. Not that I've ever set out to be a terribly audience-focused blogger. Not that I ever really even expected to have an audience beyond family and close friends.

Which brings to mind the strange fact that according to Blogger, my profile page has had circa 2,000 views (I guess at some point Blogger got tired of keeping specific numbers?) since I started the blog. While I realize that that number is nothing compared a bunch of blogs out there in the -osphere, it did kind of startle me when I saw it the other day.

Why on earth have anything close to 2,000 people looked at my profile page? Who are they? How did they come across it? Are they mostly people who know me? Or mostly people who don't? What did they hope to learn by looking at it? What did they think after looking at it?

The main feedback I get from anyone who has seen it and given feedback, is that my photo doesn't show me enough, so why did I choose that photo? Maybe I'll write about that one day this month.

And the (sad to me, in a way) truth is that I doubt anyone who has looked at it has given it much more than a moment's thought. And the reason I say this is that most people who are looking at blog profiles have probably looked at lots of blog profiles, and will probably look at many more. And the human mind can only manage a certain amount of information, which is what a blog profile gives you.

And that's the sad part to me, that in a way, a blog profile reduces real people to images and little lists on a "page" that is really not a page like a page in a yearbook, or a photo album, something you can pick up and touch and keep on your shelf and treasure.

No, by having a blog I have put myself out there in this impersonal space that I can't even begin to define or explain....this "page" is not touchable, or smellable as the pages of a book are. (I love the smell of old paper.) It's just a visual image that appears on a screen and disppears with the click of a mouse. (Which is not really a mouse at all, either.)

But for better or for worse, I'm out there, and now I'm making this daily commitment, and maybe on December 5 I will have reached some amazing insight because of it--or maybe I'll just be relieved to write that final daily post! We'll see.

In any case, I'm thankful to those of you who have told me that sometimes what I write strikes a chord, or even makes a difference. When I started this blog, I so did not want it become an exercise in vanity. If it ever becomes that, my intention is to end it.

Until then, here's to sending thoughts into intangible space for unknown readers!

Monday, November 02, 2009

C.S. Lewis weighs in

"Don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion," he wrote in A Grief Observed, "or I shall suspect that you don't understand."

(I just read this in an article on life after death and had to share it.)