Things To Love

I want to keep this simple.

I am just home from a walk around the same block I have been walking since the fifth grade. The block has changed a bit. Sidewalks mean that I no longer have to walk alongside the ditch like my cousin Daun and I did when we were in high school and exercising before the first morning bell. Fields of corn and horses have turned into a ball park, a beautiful park with swings and slides, a bike park, a soccer field, a swimming pool, and now a super cool tree-identification park. Each time the block changed, my stomach roiled. I’m not big on change. I liked the fields. I liked the horses. I liked the corn and the butterflies and the quiet.

Even so, it’s a great place to walk. And I am learning to love each change–super-cool-tree-identification center easier to love than ball park, but then I’m a slow-learner.

Just now, I went out walking in order to look for love. I’ve been adrift these past several weeks. I watch the news nonstop. I knit. I light up the house and wrap presents. I drink wine in the evenings and watch more news and go to bed with a fist-sized knot in my chest and when I wake, it’s still there.

Last night, my husband and I were watching TV (the news much to his chagrin–he prefers old episodes of Bonanza) and, of course, coverage turned to trump’s weird tweets about a jacked-up plan for nuclear security. We began to reminisce longingly about the days of George W. and his friend Dick, of how much we miss those guys and John Boehner. My husband said a couple of pretty-unloving things about the administration-to-be, and we sat silently together for a little while.

We are not mean people, and yet I feel mean-spirited, angry, frustrated, and anxious. I know what it is–I am surprised. I am shaken. I am shocked, and I do not know how to process these feelings of groundlessness so I turn to anger. It’s easier, after all, to be angry than it is to face the deep abyss of who this election tells me we are.

And it all feels a little silly to me too. After all, I have a very nice life. My house is lit up with lights and candles. My tree is in the front window, and beneath its piney-looking limbs are way too many presents wrapped with bows. I just took two loaves of cinnamon bread out of the oven, and I’ve got a ham in the crockpot. The next few days, I will spend time only with people I love. We will eat too much, exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols, go to church, laugh at each other’s jokes, drink Christmas punch, and be stupid awesome together (that’s for you my cousins!). I feel a little silly being so sad.

And yet I am.

So I am looking for things to love. And I wonder if you would too. At least for the next couple of days. I have to tell you that each time I go outside, I find something to love. The natural world is so full. Today the treetops were furred with starlings. Their soft, dark bodies perched in the bare limbs filled my heart. They are always there, aren’t they. But when the days are stark and the trees have shed their leaves, I can see them. What a gift.

There is so much love in the world, and it is love we have to cultivate. It is only love that will save us. I believe that, but it’s easy, so easy to forget. So I thought maybe we could help each other here. I’d love it if you posted pics (I think you can) or stories of things to love in the comments below.img_2303

Happy Holidays!

On Making

I’m still angry, still sad, still reeling from the results of the election. I don’t want to be shaken out of it or empathized with. I’m not licking my wounds; I’m allowing them to fester. People continue to remind me, on the “news,” on FB, on Twitter, that donald trump (I refuse to capitalize his name) was right, that he knew what the American people wanted, that folks like me underestimated his appeal. I don’t agree.

But here’s something new, sad and frustrated and clenching-my-jaw frustrated as I have been, my Christmas tree is up. Hell, I have two Christmas trees this year. The ornaments are hung and the house is strung with lights. Cinnamon-scented candles burn alongside their dark green pine-scented sisters. The stockings are hung on the chimney and the presents are wrapped, each one with a bow, and under the tree–ALL the presents are wrapped and under the tree.

And in the midst of all this light stringing, ornament hanging, candle burning, present-wrapping frenzy, I completed a 1000 piece puzzle in two days.

This is not me, friends. I am a woman who gets her tree up two weeks before Christmas if I’m lucky (and then leaves it up till mid-January, but that’s another story). I save wrapping presents until the last possible moment. I get candles out, but I sure as hell don’t burn them because the scent is too sweet and cloying. I am not a first week of December Christmas-is-in-the-air kind of gal.

What gives?

This morning I took a walk like I do most mornings, and I stumbled across a trump/pence sign that someone has obnoxiously left in their yard in the spirit of bad-winnerism. I stopped for a moment, and pondered kicking it over–I didn’t, by the way. The funny thing is I didn’t even want to. And that bothered me a wee bit because I’ll be damned if I’m going to be complacent, to believe that everything is okay because Wolf Blitzer and Carol Costello say it is.


Two weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving, I attended a collage/writing workshop at Spalding University  where I did my graduate work in creative writing. It’s always good to go back, to spend time with the women warriors who make up my writing group, but this time it was particularly powerful because in the wake of great loss, we created. For a couple of hours three days in a row, eight women gathered around a table. We scissored up magazines and glued random images and words together. We made stories in that room on the 3rd floor, and it felt so good.

Then I came home, turned the damned TV back on, and proceeded to watch an endless cycle of non-news about the new president-elect. And I started beating myself up for letting the blog languish. “What about your promise to write every week,” the committee taunted me each night I hit the pillow without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

But I HAVE been making.

That’s what I realized this chilly morning when I strode past that stupid trump/pence yard garbage. I haven’t been writing, but I have been making. And as long as I follow the impulse to make, hope breathes. Hope doesn’t exist within some pie-eyed dream, but breeds during dark times in art and language and witness.

Hope is as Vaclav Havel wrote, “not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Havel asserts that hope is “a state of mind . . . an ability to work for something because it is good.”

I’ve had those quotes on my bulletin board for years, and when I looked at them today, I realized that hope is art. Hope is making. It doesn’t matter what we make–whether it be cookies or gingerbread houses or dish rags. It doesn’t matter if our creativity manifests itself in a  beautifully lit Christmas tree or a perfectly installed car battery, we are makers. And making heals us.

Things are fucked up. There’s little doubt about that. But here’s the awesome reality–in direct conflict with soul-crushing anxiety and confusion and sadness, I continued to make. I nurtured hope like a small flame in my chest, and I didn’t even know it.

I must continue to nurture hope. We all must.

We are makers, all of us, no matter how we voted. Making is the physical manifestation of love in the world. Some of us make cakes while others make friendships while still others make words shimmer like jewels on the page. Making begets hope.

That’s why my house is lit, why my Christmas tree flickers in the front window. I’ve been making–reflexively. It doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t beating a bit too quickly or that my hands aren’t clenched or that I am not still so fucking shocked that at times I can barely breathe.

It means that hope isn’t a gift, it’s hard-ass work. We have to make it ourselves