17 06 2012

Tonight the wind bears upon its back the memories of this moment, and though my feet have touched more foreign shores than thousands of my ancestors and my heart opened to more pain and love than I ever foresaw, the ken is the same. Everything could change in an instant—mundane or magic—meek or malevolent—meager or momentous.

Still, the windchimes breathe for me.


Safety Asparagus

26 11 2011

I’ve been watching the show Terra Nova lately. It’s not the greatest storytelling ever, but it has dinosaurs. RAWR!

This week they surprised me with a simple – but remarkably well written – segment on safety planning in the family (one of many topics that has skyrocketed in importance to me after the Domestic Violence Advocacy class I attended a few weeks ago). I want to recreate some of that scene here, both to celebrate a rare instance where primetime television encouraged positive family dynamics and to inspire myself in my current project: writing a children’s book that would be of value to a child after witnessing violence in the home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jessie, tell me a story…

25 11 2011

The scene:

Breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe (where Michael and Heather and Jacquie work) with family: mom, sister, sister, adopted brothers. The place is full, and loud. I ask youngest sister to tell me a story, and she asks “about what?” This is what I say to her..

The Parameters:

I want zombies, and I want them to be the good guys. I want to root for them to eat all the brains. I want them to be so good that, when the story is over, I want to BE a zombie. This is the tale she told..

The Story:

Amanda Barbee is a zombie.

This makes Tom really upset, because he was starting to think he really liked her. He is not at all happy about having to kill her this early in the relationship. Furious, in fact. In order to blow off some steam before the mercy-killing he knows must come, Tom runs out into the streets of Seattle to slaughter some zombies. He bashes in heads by the Space Needle and squishes faces at Gas Works. He chops off legs at Golden Gardens just to watch them crawl through the sand–and laughs. Eventually he wears himself out, returns home, and collapses into bed.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning Tom awakens to find Amanda looming over his bed. “Oh no,” he thinks, “now I really do have to kill her, or she’ll turn me too!”

“Wait!” Amanda cries. “Don’t you see, this is the next step in our evolution. We must become zombies to be freed from our chauvinistic ways!”

This makes perfect sense to Tom. Of course zombies would be freed from the scourges of kyriarchy! Is that not what we’ve been working toward all along? He reaches out to Amanda and she tenderly chews off a hunk of his flesh, infecting him with the virus that will bring equality to all of humanity.

The End.


10 10 2011

The incomparable James Alison spoke to our class this past Monday. His message of kindness, wit, and valiant courage was insatiably consumed by my raw and weeping heart. According to him, faith is a “stable disposition placed in you by someone else” as “someone does something for you that enables you to relax enough to do something else,” and in that doing, “the clearly impossible becomes not just possible, but normal.”

For Alison, Jesus is the ultimate daredevil; the one human who was bold enough to do the impossible and enter death, not as its slave but as its triumphant Lord. When embraced, his example should lead to a profound sense of relaxation within us as the impossible–confronting the death* both within us and out in the wider world–is made absolutely unremarkable. In faith we have the power to take death for granted in the same automatic way as we do our impossible ability to walk. If you see someone who can walk, Alison said, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that at some point someone cared for them, however imperfectly; cared enough to teach them step by painful step to lift themselves up from the ground; cared enough to nurture them into freedom from impossibility.

I have a particular story to tell about how I have been nurtured thusly, but I’m finding it infernally difficult to pinpoint a beginning. This story is about my first unguarded tears since July 5, which were drawn forth by the presence of my practicum facilitator. But my tears on Tuesday make no sense without the context of my friend’s tears of desperate longing from the previous morning, or the dream of four days earlier in which I was entrusted with the impossible task of restoring the mad King’s sanity, or the day I was forcefully confronted with the depravity lurking in the heart of my family, or the year I spent frantically courting my sorrow, or the twenty-two years I poured into expunging from my conscious thoughts any awareness that my life was not exactly what it seemed on the most superficial level and the concomitant need to appear to be the master of my own inner world at all times, to stuff down any pesky emotion that might rise up and disturb my equilibrium.

One of the strangest myths I ever used to describe my experience of my Self imagined the core of my being as a little boy skipping down the road, carefree and confident and safe. At the time of this first telling I was explaining why I was such a loquacious storyteller when face to face with one other person and so, so, so quiet in groups. My interrogator postulated I was scared of all the strange people, but fear–though it defined my stance toward everyone–was something I could never confess to experiencing. So I imagined myself skipping, imagined it so vividly that I professed it as my Truth even in the turmoil of my neurotically anxious mind. Anything less whimsical than skipping–my sorrow, fear, anger, lust, humanity–was demanded to never penetrate deeper than the surface of my skin, to wash off without ever touching the core of my “I.”

It was patently ridiculous, a recipe for disaster.

I still live out of that myth more than I would care to admit.

So, when I came to Tuesday to speak about Monday, I used phrases like “overwhelming emotion,” “out of control,” “whole body tensed and quivering,” and “if those cookies hadn’t been waiting for me I would have completely lost it!” What I was telling my PF, and what she heard so well, is that it is impossible for me to be seen as other than in control. I’ve been radically redefining what “in control” means to me, shaping it to include such  formerly verboten things as tears in public and speaking silliness with strangers, but the new must always come on my own terms. It is not allowed to sweep me away unbidden. When it seems to be threatening to do so, decades of practice in running for the hills in order to blow off just enough steam to survive immediately kicks in. I flee into solitude.

Only, for the last year I have Known that continuing to “deal” with things on my own (read: repress, avoid, deny) will destroy me. Call it intuition, a hunch. I would even go so far as to say that God Herself told me so, making a covenant with me that my tears, my healing, would never come to me in the absence of another’s face. I love this promise, and I despise it; I hate the death it calls me into. I have two decades’ worth of repressed emotions clamoring for my attention, and they are so much vaster than any ability I might wish I had to pretty them up, control their expression, choose at what intensity I will lay them before your feet. When I return voice to them they will scream their existence from the mountaintops. I am, frankly, terrified of what they will say.

And this is where I come full circle and join back up with Alison’s faith: living in the courage to burn with all of my passion, rather than just flashing little glimpses here and there when I feel you can handle it, is my impossibility. I simply do not have those muscles to support myself. Tuesday, Heather sat with me for an hour in gentleness and acceptance and strength as I flirted with my emotions, leaning progressively closer but always pulling away the moment they showed signs of wanting to press their lips to mine in turn. She held me upright when I wanted to do nothing but crawl, was always right there when I fell again, again, again. And then she said,

“My hope for you is that someone will make a place for you at their table where you may feast.”

and I replied,

“Me too. I am so tired of having to make it all myself.”

Those simple words, spoken from the very bottom of my heart, brought with them a flood of tears. Sobs wracked my body. And a tightness, a clenching, a walling off of myself from myself was loosened, broken down. The impossible happened, and I relaxed. And I could never have done it alone.

love & snugglies


*for any readers not already primed by Dan Allender to think in terms of entering death (or those who are and want to see something of a different take on the matter), let me point you here and here

Can you cry in freefall?

16 08 2011

My time in Colorado, with my beloved mother and sisters, is slipping away. I chase after the seconds, but they outpace this mortal body by 670,999,997 miles per hour, give or take a few. I hadn’t fathomed the size of their absence until I felt that hole filled.

This night, amidst packing for my trillionth flight this summer, give or take a trillion minus eight, feels like a good time to share another airplane story.

The first leg of my most recent flight into Denver was overbooked. My seat was in the rear of the cabin, my boarding group the last to be called; I stared at faces as I trudged down the aisle. It was 7:20 on a Tuesday morning. Every eye was hooded with a quiet desperation.

Or were they just mirrors reflecting my own dis-ease back upon me?

The seat next to mine was the last on the plane to be warmed by life, however surly. He was a southpaw; I know because his coat flapped open as he squeezed by, his gun staring me in the face. I thought sky marshals were a relic of cheap fiction? Clearly he must have too, the guy was out cold before we even left the gate and didn’t wake until we’d touched down in Salt Lake City. I could have palmed his weapon at any point during the flight. I could have stormed the cockpit, put my 30 minutes of flying experience to good use, and rerouted us somewhere far away–just flown and flown until we ran out of fuel, flown to some island where we’d fish and scavenge and create our own world from scratch.

Instead, I pulled out my book and entered the world someone else had crafted for me, a world where “what has been wounded in relationship must, after all, be healed in relationship” and you “[can] tell love when you can take it completely for granted.”

And I cried.

From liftoff to the moment we again touched solid ground my cheeks were streaked with tears, all because of that lyrical little treasure I picked up from the library. As I worshiped through the sacred stories of A Shining Affliction I found myself thinking over and over and over again “I want (to be) that!”

I sat in a tin can with 150 strangers and cried tears of hope and longing. Sometimes I really do impress myself.

For the next leg? Lather, rinse, and repeat–only replace the sky marshal with a hirsute man-beast wearing football memorabilia and encompassing half of my seat as well as his own. My concentration was frequently broken by the sudden rush of cool as his arm shifted away from my own, bringing the unsettling awareness of just how much he’d been sweating.


One week later: the book is different, planes are heading the opposite direction, sky marshal and minotaur have been replaced by human-shaped bottle of coco-butter tanning lotion and puking 7-year old girl (I really couldn’t tell you which smell was worse)…tears are the same. Reading in public is becoming dangerous.

Saturday morning cartoons

26 07 2011

This space has lain dormant for a while now, and after the (completely appropriate) drama of my most recent entry I feel a little silly stepping back into things with this flippant non sequitur. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about–quite the opposite, in fact–the problem is everything I might have to say hinges upon one story that is too messy, involves too many other people, hits too close to home, for me to indiscriminately throw out into the world (even though almost all of you reading this probably already know to what I refer).

But, with that disclaimer carefully in place, I do have something to say:

I am Peter Parker.*

I’ve been soothing myself these past few weeks by recreating the weekends of my childhood: wake up around 10, pour myself a giant-sized bowl of cereal, and curl up in front of the tv (now my computer) to the lights and sounds of super hero cartoons. Spider-Man is my favorite, though the X-men can occasionally give him a run for his money. As nostalgia inevitably carries me down memory lane, I’ve been repeatedly stunned to realize how often–even to this day, over a decade since I last watched the show–my inner monologue perfectly mimics that of Peter Parker.

I so loved and internalized a cartoon that I still regularly recreate episodes in my daily life. And I had no idea it was happening until watching those episodes all over again. As I was teaching myself to be a man that friendly neighborhood spider was, apparently, one of my most influential role models. I could certainly do worse.


*Not that pathetic Tobey Maguire character. If he’s your only window into the world of Spider-Man stop reading this right now, go out and buy a few comics. Or, better yet, log in to Netflix and check out the Spider-Man cartoons that ran from ’94-’97, as those are my primary source material.

16 06 2011

This one doesn’t have a title.

This one doesn’t have my usual amount of (obsessive?) forethought.

This one doesn’t make my eyes well with tears.

This one doesn’t feel like it’s burning a hole in my gut–quite the opposite, in fact, as it’s all about the way I filled my tummy.

The essential meaning of this one is encapsulated at the very end, but the end is meaningless without the middle–so don’t skip ahead!

I burned my dinner to death tonight. I was making an omelet, something I have done so many times I could whip up the perfect one while sleepwalking…and yet, for some unknown reason this evening I turned out the worst excuse for a cooked egg I can ever remember making. I’m not even entirely sure I can call it an egg anymore, just a round of blackened cardboard. Twenty minutes later and I can still taste the char.

That’s right, I ate it anyway. And not just it; I piled it high with an abundance of the freshest veggies I have ever had the pleasure of working with, straight from Full Circle Farms: arugula, asparagus, radish, red pepper, and spring onions, with a couple spoonsful of my favorite salsa to top it all off. Any other night and I would have considered it an abomination to pair such sublime vegetables with that eggy travesty. Tonight, it was perfection.

With each bite, as I slowly savored the discordant combination of fresh and burnt, life and death, success and failure, I tasted pure joy. The worst egg I have cooked became an integral part of the best meal I have eaten in some time. Perhaps not since my last multi-day backpacking trip, when a week of vienna sausages and spam (and 30 miles of hiking with a 50lb pack) made the simple spaghetti we ate upon returning home seem as something transported straight from heaven into my mouth, have I eaten something that felt so right for the time, place, life I found myself in.

The road to perfection can only be found in the midst of imperfection, and it leads nowhere but deeper into the muck and the mire.