Simple Beyond Communion


Two whistles, one for each,
and familiar sounds draw close in darkness—
cadence of hoof on hardened bottomland,
twinned blowing of air through nostrils curious, flared.
They come deepened and muscular movements
conjured out of sleep: each small noise and scent
heavy with earth, simple beyond communion…

and in the night, their mares’ eyes shine, reflecting stars,
the entire, outer light of the world here.
~Jane Hirschfield from “After Work”



In the Clover




Lightly it flew to the pleasant home
Of the flower most truly fair,
On Clover’s breast he softly lit,
And folded his bright wings there.
‘Dear flower,’ the butterfly whispered low,
‘Long hast thou waited for me;
Now I am come, and my grateful love
Shall brighten thy home for thee;
Thou hast loved and cared for me, when alone,
Hast watched o’er me long and well;
And now will I strive to show the thanks
The poor worm could not tell.
Sunbeam and breeze shall come to thee,
And the coolest dews that fall;
Whate’er a flower can wish is thine,
For thou art worthy all.
~Louisa May Alcott from “Clover-Blossom”






Get Up!



Little girl. Old girl. Old boy. Old boys and girls with high blood pressure and arthritis, and young boys and girls with tattoos and body piercing. You who believe, and you who sometimes believe and sometimes don’t believe much of anything, and you who would give almost anything to believe if only you could. You happy ones and you who can hardly remember what it was like once to be happy. You who know where you’re going and how to get there and you who much of the time aren’t sure you’re getting anywhere. “Get up,” he says, all of you – all of you! – and the power that is in him is the power to give life not just to the dead like the child, but to those who are only partly alive, which is to say to people like you and me who much of the time live with our lives closed to the wild beauty and miracle of things, including the wild beauty and miracle of every day we live and even of ourselves.

~Frederick Buechner -Originally published in Secrets in the Dark




Nothing Ever Bothered Me Anyway!


It is no wonder our daughters feel confused. They have every right to be.

Society delivers mixed messages every day about who we want our girls to emulate:
“Let it go, let it go,
That perfect girl is gone! “
declares the latest Disney Princess in “Frozen” — an anthem even toddlers are singing with abandon.

Elsa continues, and all our children and grandchildren sing along:

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!”

Of course, true for Disney and true for life, Elsa finds there is indeed right and wrong, there must be rules to live by and eventually sacrificial love conquers all.

But what of our real flesh and blood daughters in a “let it go and anything goes” society?

Today’s American girls live in a society of carefully legislated gender equity with high expectations for academic and athletic success. All the while ubiquitous magazine covers in the supermarket checkout make it abundantly clear that a woman’s value is about her body and her sexuality. Pervasive media messages extol “ideal” female bodies rather than a girl’s intellectual development: bigger breasts, smaller waist, visible thigh gap, pristine skin, whitest teeth, enticing scents, silkiest hair yet a carefully shaved “down there”. I’ve seen pre-teen girls (and their brothers) stare at these photoshopped cover girls while waiting in line.     These kinds of images used to be hidden under mattresses a generation ago; now that we are an “enlightened” and “liberated” culture of open tolerance for all manner of public sexual expression, anything goes anywhere. And we call that progress.

As a Christian mother who understands Jesus as the incarnation of sacrificial love and servant leadership, did I raise our daughter to be certain,  first and foremost,  in her value and role as a child of God to trust in the mind and body she was given?   As a physician who works primarily with older adolescents, I regularly see young women experience the typical developmental struggles over who they are and who they want to be, but a growing percentage feel entirely miserable inside their own skin. In comparison to what media portrays as “ideal” for girls and women, they do not like their bodies or themselves one bit and have a variety of ways of punishing themselves for what they perceive as inadequacy.

Recent ads from Verizon

and Always Sanitary Pads

pack a powerful message to pre-teen girls on what it is like to be dismissed as “like a girl.”

Then in contrast, the latest video in menstruation marketer HelloFlo’s monthly “special delivery” packages for a girl’s “hoo-ha”, comes complete with a snarky pre-adolescent narrator and her angry mother who gleefully gets back at her.

This is meant to be a “satirical and humorous” take on modern mother/daughter open communication but falls flat and farcical in my opinion. In addition, the advertised discrete brown box that arrives every month from HelloFlo, to take care of all those messy adolescent menstrual needs, contains candy and other goodies, just what every girl needs to console her cramps and monthly crabbiness.

Periods separate one sentence from another and menstrual periods separate the girls from the boys.   Humanity’s obvious ambivalence about monthly blood flow extends back to pre-history when blood-thirsty predators were a continual threat (why else would any one who smelled like blood be separated from the household/community for seven days a month?)   Although we are no longer threatened by sabre-tooth tigers, our species’ continuing distaste and embarrassment over the hassles of menstrual cycles has resulted in a modern demand for continuous suppressive hormone treatment to prevent bleeding altogether so girls and women can work and play unencumbered by leaks, odor, and accompanying uncomfortable symptoms.  Eventually, we may find there are more problems with cycle and fertility suppression than the benefit of convenience.   Only time will tell as have happened with other reversals in medicine after years of trial (i.e. hormonal supplementation in menopausal women to keep “bones strong and vaginal tissue young”  is no longer advised).

Our daughters need not be confused about who they are and becoming — accepting themselves as they are, in all their diversity of size and shape, color and ability — while respecting their body’s natural rhythms and learning to cope with the ebb and flow of emotions and endometrium.

If we return to Frozen’s Elsa once again to paraphrase the final line in her now-famous song:
“Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
Nothing ever bothered me anyway! “

At a Crossroads


When a man thinks happily, he finds no foot-track in the field he traverses.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson from “Quotation and Originality”


Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back…
~Robert Frost from “The Road Not Taken”
Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity.
~Robert Frost from “Selected Letters”

Fade Into Glooms




I love at eventide to walk alone
Down narrow lanes o’erhung with dewy thorn…

Right glad to meet the evening’s dewy veil
And see the light fade into glooms around.
~John Clare from “Summer Moods”




Ache of Memory


Only be it understood,
It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.
~Robert Frost from “On the Sale of My Farm”






“When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields,
consider the orderliness of the world.
Notice something you have never noticed before…

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.”
~Mary Oliver from “The Leaf and the Cloud”


A Moment of Balance

What follows the light is what precedes it:
the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.

But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs
so late into the evening –
why should we look either forward or backwards?
Why should we be forced to remember:
it is in our blood, this knowledge.
Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter.
It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history.
It takes a genius to forget these things.
~Louise Glück from “Solstice”


Why Bother?




For a bright and promising summer solstice morning:

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

…and if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.
~Billy Collins from “Morning”