Find Ecstasy in Life–An Abecedarian (with a couple omissions)

Weird accounting aside, here I am Monday morning, ass in chair, writing. It’s wet, gray and autumn-ish except for a late-summer lingering mugginess. I’m looking out my window (yep, I am an old-school typist) at the fattest cardinal I have ever seen.

In fact, it doesn’t look like a cardinal at all–sort of pale colored with a bright gray beak and reddish tail feathers. In fact, I probably would have mis-identified if a spectacularly red parent weren’t a few branches above mirroring the small fat bird’s every move. It has to be a fledgling.

The back yard cardinals, hopping from one thin honeysuckle-entwined branch to another in the tangle of burning bushes along the fencerow, remind me on this news-addled Monday morning that there are indeed many things to be thankful for.

Sometimes I forget. Just a quick example:

When a woman comes forward with accusations of sexual assault against a man who is seeking a lifetime appointment on the highest court in our judicial system, accusations that will forever change the course of not only her life, but also the life of her family, and she is vilified and called a liar by the President of the United States, I forget to be thankful.

When I see a group of Republican women on TV discussing the allegations, and one of the women claims that all 17 year old boys act that way, I forget to be thankful.

Some days it takes a lot of reminding.

I’m going to be honest here, sometimes reminding myself that there’s a lot to be thankful for seems like a luxury, an indulgence I can’t afford.  And then I read some Emily Dickinson–Find ecstasy in life–the mere sense of living is enough–and realize that being thankful is not a luxury at all. It’s a necessity.


So that’s where I’m headed this Monday morning in this winding and meandering–looking out the window at the still yellow honeysuckle blooming, and the still green grass growing, and one really fat cardinal, and tiny chipmunks, and a single green  pepper plant that refuses to quit–essay.

The world outside the window, just what I can see from my desk, gives me plenty to be thankful for.

An Abecedarian, from where I sit,

Angles of grey light through branches of the white pine trees, and the Breeze ruffling leaves, and my iced Coffee with simple syrup and soy milk, and those tenacious Dandelions refusing to give up, and the squared off Edges of pallets from Sydni’s wedding now a Fence covered with trumpet vines, and the box Garden my dad crafted from treated lumber and filled with Humus and manure and topsoil, and the Honeysuckle I can’t help but love, and even the poison Ivy (well not the poison Ivy, but I need an I), and the Jangle of wind chimes my neighbor brought back from the Philippines, and Kindness and Love and Memory and Notepads with lists and reminders and wishes, and Oscillating fans for their whispery sound and wind, and Pencils and Pens and Paper and Prayers, and the Quizzical turn of a pug dog’s head.

Should I go on?

How about the Red crested feathers of the cardinal, or the air Swollen with cricket and cicada Song?

How about the Ta-wheee of the killdeer, the Usefulness of the garden hoe leaning against the pallet fence, the Whistle of the car wheels against the Wet pavement.

I’m skipping X and Z, but I will say that I’m grateful to, thankful for, and wildly in love with Yellow–Yellow leaves, Yellow mums, the Yellow beach shovel lying atop the dirt pile, and the old Yellow bee swing hanging on the chipped black swing frame we bought and never used.

Listen, I know it’s a bit contrived–this ABC thing–and still I love it. I love the shape it. I love the broad yet constrictive form. I love the exercise of fitting my thoughts into something already created. And doing this particular exercise–giving thanks–forces me to acknowledge how fucking small we and our problems are. The world is so big and so beautiful.

A couple of weeks ago I began my post with a quote from Emily Dickinson. This week, I am going to end with the one that got me started today.

Find ecstasy in life–the mere sense of living is joy enough.


A Few Things

Yes, I missed a week–two actually. However, this blog post will count for last week (in a slightly twisted form of blog post accounting I am allowed to use because it’s my blog) if I post this coming weekend too.

It’s slightly difficult to post a blog when you are experiencing fun-filled weekends away from home, unless you are more disciplined than I–and by that I mean disciplined.

That said–lots has happened in the past two weeks.

I traveled:

by train to Chicago and by car to Lexington.

I scarfed down:

a wide variety of sushi (plum sushi is the bomb), Brussel sprouts roasted in butter and brown sugar, wilted kale salad, a huge piece of pizza by a kick-ass fountain, sweet black grapes in a plastic cup by the sickly blue waters of the Chicago River, steak and eggs glazed with a light and earthy pesto, salty, crunchy stove popcorn in the kitchen of a tiny house with good friends, and a hummus/veggie wrap with an illicitly brought-aboard can of sparkling rosé on a evening train ride to Chicago.

I read:

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. There will be more on this later. IT’s a call to action, and I believe we must take it if we truly want to live in a just society. READ IT and let’s have a conversation about it.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show. I have been listening to this book for the past several month. I’m not a big audio book person, so I listen mainly when I drive. If you are so inclined, I highly recommend listening as Noah is both funny and earnest. Noah’s story is illuminating and crazy and hopeful and so filled with love it hurts.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This book is hard to read. The evil acted upon the Osage in the 1920s is impossible to understand and terrifying to comprehend. This book and the history it relates will break your heart–it did mine.

Right now I’m reading John Hodgman’s Vacationland: Stories from Painful BeachesYou might remember Hodgman’s billionaire act from The Daily Show. I got the rec from Ann Handley’s newsletter–and I have to tell you, I love it. This book is exactly what I needed after the heavy and necessary reading above. Hodgman is funny–I’m laughing out loud while I read it, smart, questioning, and slyly subversive. Comedy at its best.

So to summarize: I haven’t written because I’ve been traveling, eating, and reading. I’ve also been knitting. I started this new thing that I’m calling #yearofrags. I started it the way I begin most things–with an overabundance of confidence and a plan to do way more than someone with my lack of discipline can accomplish. So what began as an intention to knit a dish rag or wash cloth sort of square a day, has morphed into more achievable plan to knit a dish rag or wash cloth sort of square as often as possible. As of this Monday, I’ve knitted 17 of these rags, and I plan to carry on this task for a year. We’ll see how I do. If you are interested in this endeavor, you can check it out on instagram. I’m bridgettmckinney there and the hashtag is #yearofrags.


One more thing–A cool thing that happened.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Loving More and featuring the wonderful signs from the Love More group located in Whiteland, Indiana. And now the Love More signs are all over Olney. It’s pretty cool and the work of a great group called The Unity Project and some other neat folks. Anyway, if you have one, or if you see one, post it on my facebook page, or here under my blog.


And with that–I’m off to knit a rag and take a long walk.

To Live Is So Startling

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

Emily Dickinson

Sometimes the answer to the question–the one you weren’t quite aware you were asking–comes in the mail. At least that’s what happened to me on Friday.

Let me backtrack a bit. I have this new plan to blog once a week. Well, it’s actually an old plan, renewed. But new or old the plan is to blog once a week.

N.O. M.A.T.T.E.R. W.H.A.T.

So I sat down Friday with little more than an idea in my head about continuing this business of trying to love more.  In a grand mood, I was home from a haircut with Robbin. She’s magic, that one. I’m always a bit hipper and prettier when I leave her shop.

And yet, even in my I-look-pretty-awesome mood, I was grousing around because on my walk home I noticed and avoided a lot of

dog poop on the sidewalk.

Hold on dog lovers, it wasn’t like one dog shit on the sidewalks. It was more like every dog in town pooped on the sidewalk. And the truth, while I’m not a super complainy- type person, I am a rabid hater of dog poop on sidewalks.

I don’t understand why dogs can’t relieve themselves in the grass–isn’t it more pleasant there? Hell, I don’t even care if dog walkers neglect to retrieve their dog’s poop, bag it, and throw it away. As long as it’s in the grass, I can imagine it decomposing and making its way back into the soil. Go Nature!

I don’t; however, like to see the decomposing poop on the sidewalk. I don’t like to almost step in it or worse to step in it and have to scrape it from the treads in my tennis shoes. I hate having to train my eyes on the path instead of the sky which on Friday was full of huge white clouds quilted with thin streaks of blue. I don’t like to almost miss the doe and her two babies making their way through the ball park as if they were late for a game because I’m worried about stepping in a big pile of poop.

So when I began my blog post about loving more, it immediately devolved into a blog post/rant concerning the treachery of dog poop.

Enter Ms. Dickinson.  Here’s how it goes most days–after writing for a minute or two, I get up. Writing for a minute or two affects me that way–I just gotta move–run a rag over the kitchen countertops, toss a load of towels into the washer, make sure I have enough salt or flour or milk for lunch, let the dogs out. You name it, if there’s a distraction, I’ll ferret that sucker out. On Friday, mail was the distraction of choice.


And in the mail–a letter from a friend. Handwritten on the envelope, this Emily Dickinson quote taken from a letter she wrote to T. W. Higginson in the 1870s. It was, perhaps, the truest thing I’d read all week.

To Live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

Yes, dog poop on the sidewalk is startling, but so are sky-quilted clouds and meandering deer and the way early morning sun glints off the million beads of dew on shaggy late summer grass.

It’s not hard to love more, is it, when you wake to the sound of your husband  lifting a fallen nest of baby robins, and you open the curtains, just as he places the nest full of gape-mouthed babies in the hydrangea bush outside your window.

To love more is to allow yourself to be startled.

Wait, I think I can say that better. To love more is to say enough with the resistance–go ahead and startle me world! I may not be ready for it, but I sure as hell don’t want to miss it, any of it. It’s about acknowledging and accepting that uncertainty is the norm. It’s to remember, as Nina Riggs wrote beautifully in her memoir, The Bright Hour that:

living with a terminal disease is like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss. But that living without disease is also like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss, only with some fog or cloud cover obscuring the depths a bit more — sometimes the wind blowing it off a little, sometimes a nice dense cover.”

To be startled is to know we are always on that tightrope.

To accept that the whole damned enterprise of living is a tightrope.

We resist being startled to our peril, and goddess knows it’s hard not to resist it. How much news about passports taken away from Latino US citizens can you take? How often do you have to read that the Secretary of Education wants to protect the rights for those accused of sexual abuse on college campuses while reducing liability of colleges? How many times can you bear to hear the president say the press is the enemy of the people?

It’s startling. And when I get startled, sometimes I get scared. So resistance kicks in, doesn’t it. Who wants to be startled all the time?

Like Emily Dickinson contends–it’s hard to get anything else done.


And yet, I am calling on myself, and you too, if you’re interested, to resist shutting down. To go ahead and say to the whole damned world–keep startling me. Because I’m beginning to believe it–to live is so startling.

In my back yard, the honeysuckle is fierce. Every year, I pull some of it down, and still it comes back and it climbs and weaves and clings its way up through the lilac and the burning bushes. And the crepe myrtle is just now bursting fuchsia. Right now. Right outside the window!

It’s startling, isn’t it. The tenacity of the honeysuckle, the grand display of the crepe myrtle. It’s startling, isn’t it. The baby girl grandchild who calls you “Gigi” for the first time. The 19 year old who cries at the possibility of a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Life is startling, people. Every fucking minute of it.


A friend of mine has a pre-schooler who asked her the other day, “Mom, do you think president trump will get peached?”

She answered, “I hope so buddy.”

A few minutes later her son asked again, perhaps with a bit more urgency, “I really hope president trump gets peached this week.”

I love this story for a couple of reasons:

One, it makes my heart glad that pre-schoolers see the necessity of impeaching our president.

And two–what if we just peached the fuckers? I mean, isn’t that the essence of loving more? Peaching those we disagree with? 


I’d love to sew this up neatly. I’d love to make all the stories come together. That’s what a writer does, right?

Maybe so, maybe not.

Maybe right now our job (writers, parents, dog owners, politicians, bakers and artists and conductors and vets) is to accept that “to live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else”

and to act accordingly.