Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Just Not Right!!

Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that I am no great Phileos Animalis. In our family, I am the one immovable barrier to my children’s desperate pleas for a domestic canine experience (thank God that Christa is allergic to cats, so we at least don’t have to have that battle). The only compromise I was willing to make was to let them get turtles, who sleep a good 6 months of the year in someone else’s garage. Talk about low maintenance! The only pet I had as a child was the adorable little kitten we got as kids one Christmas and creatively named… Christmas, and who just disappeared one day even before it stopped being a cute little kitten. Then there was the tank of amazing tropical fish my parents were “fish-sitting,” while the real owners were traveling for a few months. Every last fish was dead within the first few weeks. The small white budgerigar I was given when I was 18, whom I named Coca (yes, after that stuff!), survived my care, against all odds, for about three years, but not the care of his “bird sitters,” when I was away in Europe for a year.

The only pets I’ve had since then were the ones we had in PNG. Our dog, Hadley, who died an agonizing death after eating pesticides while we were away in Germany for a couple of months, and our ants, cockroaches and mice, who survived despite our decisive efforts to exterminate them. In fact, the real reason I don’t mind staying in Germany, is because there are no cockroaches here. A couple of days ago, my neighbor friend Louisa invited me in to see her three new kittens. The whole time I was petting them and saying how cute they were, I was thinking, “What kind of crazy people have a house full of cats?” And every morning when another neighbor’s cat wants to be let in for breakfast between 5 and 7 am, yowling like a squeaky violin, I am sure that if I still had a bb-gun from my wild and crazy teen years, I would have long put an end to its miserable little existence (I’m obviously also not a morning person).

So I feel almost hypocritical when I start to listen to my own heart’s response to the oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico, and I find there much more compassion and heartbreak than I would have expected. In fact, I started sobbing convulsively on my way to Ikea the other day, as I imagined the violence being inflicted upon this living, pulsating and diverse ecosystem, and wrote this poem when I got back home. Every new article about the failed attempts to cap the leak, every aerial video of the sprawling black pest, and every picture of the birds and sea life who are suffocating and smothered in the fuming, sludgy crude, wrenches from my heart new waves of horror and sorrow, of feeling angry and helpless and… responsible. It’s just not right! It’s just not right!

In stretches such as I’ve had the last few weeks, when melancholy has settled in like a long bout of bad weather, this tragedy seems to have given me that last right hook emotionally and landed me on the mat for the final count of ten. The actual physical crises of the unrelenting oil still intruding into the aqua blue Gulf is daunting enough, but the network of corporate and political corruption, the world wide scale of unsustainable consumption, and my own addictive behavior, which keeps the whole system well lubricated and in ceaseless operation, appear to me to be an unstoppable herd of buffalo stampeding us all off a cliff. Will it ever change? Will I ever change? How do you stop a stampeding herd of anything?

Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Brunch-n-More: The whole family enjoys it. Casual conversation with others over eggs and morning rolls with jam and honey, cold cuts, cheeses, coffee, chocolate milk. Catching up with each other, filling each other in on the latest news, expressing grief or joy over the local and global events, movie reviews. Deeper sharing while cleaning up the kitchen, putting the tables away, nuggets from the philosophical or theological book we are in the middle of, stories about the arduous road family, or oneself, had to take to immigrate to a new country… unimaginable hardship for some of us, lived through for others who are standing in the kitchen, drying plates, tossing eggshells. Even little three year old Alexander is helping to vacuum the floor. We all come from somewhere. And we are all welcome here.

We want to try and enter someone else’s journey. Someone from long ago. Someone whose life was an experiment. We are also experimenting today, with a new method: Biblio-drama. We read the story together, name the characters, and each choose a part. We have a few minutes to ourselves to read some background information about time and place, people and culture, and then we come together to re-enact the first steps of faith for a man who was called to a better country, called to be a pilgrim, a sojourner, called to be the father of many and blessing to all: Abram. (Genesis 12)

And, like all experiments, there are chinks. The teens are perhaps too self-conscious for this method. The younger kids are having a blast playing pretend, and milk it for all it is worth to muck around and giggle. The adults? Are we able to feel the tension that Abram must have felt? The apprehension? The heavy weight of responsibility for his family and his servants, which he carried for a decision that would dramatically effect the course of their lives? What it must have meant for Sarai to follow someone, who was following someone else? Can we allow Abram and Sarai’s story to enter our story, and draw us out of our comfort zone, to become sojourners of another kind? Especially when the only thing we have to weigh against all the skepticism, know-better advice, doom-sayers, and scoffers, not to mention our own fear of failure and of the unknown calamity that surely awaits us ahead, is God’s call to us to move on. God’s call? What the heck is that? Please!!!! That is sooo Old Testament! What does that even sound like? Feel like? How would I know what it is, if I ever heard it?

But we do know, don’t we? Wouldn’t want to tell anybody about it, but there is that special kind of gnawing, isn’t there? A voice our own, and yet not our own, that irritates the crap out of us, telling us it is time to move on… or sometimes, time to make a stand, and get in someone’s way, who is up to no good. But that is another story. This story is about moving out, being the first to go into uncharted territory, becoming a foreigner and stranger among strangers, being led moment by moment without a plan, about never being too old to try something new, going as a guest and not for conquest, about putting a little distance to ties that would otherwise keep us stagnant and immobile. This story, which could also be our story, is about the free flow of blessing, and culture and hope. It’s about the promise of life, where we perhaps least expected it.

As in all experiments, there were chinks in their travels… as any can see who keep reading Abram’s story. So, I feel like we are in good company, when we don’t nail a bulls eye every time. I still believe in experimenting, and I still hear the call to search for ways to include everyone, encourage participation, and search for meaning together not only in ancient stories, but in each other’s stories especially.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Now She Knows

Nine years old
and now she knows
She asked me in the car
driving to her violin lessons
pretty as can be
her long blond hair
uncombed as always

Nine years old
and now she knows
Emre, a Turkish boy
in her class
told her
How does he know?
Just out of the blue,
he says something like that?

Nine years old
and now she knows
she will ride in a horse drawn carriage
and her flower girls will ride ponies
she has lots of names for her children
so this is hard to understand
she thinks being a mommy
is the best thing in the world
and I am the best mommy

Nine years old
and now she knows
“Mommy, is it true,
that some people
kill their babies
even before they are born?
Their girl babies?”

Nine years old
and now she knows
Girl babies aren’t as good
Boy babies are better, but
“I’m going to keep
all of my babies,
boys and girls,
I’ll love them both
the same”

Nine years old
and now she Knows

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Maternal Memorial

Driving.. on my way to buy stuff

By the Hand of My Father,

from the Paper Boys

Is playing on my ipod.

As the words that I am singing along to

start to sink in

all the way in

past my defenses

past my consumerist distractions

past the soft layers I’ve added on over the years

One day late

I cry for her

Crazy as a loon

By the hand of my father

but never by the hand of my mother

she never used power and violence to hurt me

maybe because she had no power

A powerless crazy ol’ woman

who never beat me


gave birth

plunged me into this world

taught me how to tie a bow

and draw paper dolls

and carried me through the snow

and that was it

all she could give

but enough

I cry

Maternal memory is carried down river

as grief for our great matriarch

casts its yawl into my willing emotional current

Our Mother

perpetually raped

is now being soiled

with the black semen

of man’s lust for power,

Our Mother

left barren

must watch

as her children drown

in it’s filth

We weep

We mothers weep

We grandmothers weep

for our great mother

our schizophrenic mother

who heaves and throws tantrums

and sometimes tries to

shake herself free of us

and protect herself

from the hands of our fathers