I'm not a poet, but I do sometimes catch myself talking in meter to the kids. . .
Loading the Car
Yes, I like that dance but
Not in the parking lot.
Don't rub against the car
Cause I said so, that's why.
Yes, you may have a treat
Not in the parking lot.
Please climb into your seat
Then I will close your door.
Yes, I know that it's cold
That's why we wear our coats.
I will come buckle you
After the yelling stops.
Please let your brother hold
Onto your lunchbox strap.
Yes you can share it, see?
Now you both have it there.
We will be home soon, I
don't want to hear one more thing.
How is it that children learn to recognize forms? How do they learn, so early in life, that cockapoos and Great Danes are both dogs? How do they learn that a line drawing of a duck and a real duck can both be called ducks?
With both our children, it's been most obvious with trains. Any set of parallel lines is interpreted as tracks. When she was not yet 2, Katie took a penny to one of those old metal - edged 60's kitchen tables, and ran the penny in the "tracks" around its sides, calling "choo-choo"! Johann recently declared a pair of tan pants his "choo-choo" pants, I think because the logo letter have parallel lines running through them.
And now for a little urban planning.
The last couple times we went to downtown Saint Paul, our youngest (now 2) has started calling out "choo choo!" We were near Union Station, where there are no longer any actual trains, but Will thought that perhaps our boy had some instinctive knowledge of their historical presence. A week later, though, Johann did the exact same thing as we drove into downtown Minneapolis. My current theory is that Johann associates downtown urban forms with trains, because we've usually embarked on the light rail from downtown. So it's not any actual trains he's seeing or remembering in St. Paul -- just the forms that, in his mind, go with them.
Will, of course, is all over this. Even a toddler can recognize the kind of city building that lends itself to alternative transit! Sadly, of course, our own neighborhood was also once frequented by streetcars, but now there's just a recreational vestige of the old streetcar system at Lake Harriet. Thank goodness our children at least know that rail can be used for legitimate transit, even if its still pretty limited here.
I have lots of political opinions but have usually refrained from blogging in that direction, if for no other reason than that there are plenty of political blogs out there.
But I can't help point out how irritated I am about the press coverage for Bill Richardson's potential presidential bid. 90% of all mentions of him say only that he would be "the first Hispanic President." Oh, please. Look at this resume (from the Concord Monitor):
Richardson, 59, possesses an eclectic resume: Fifteen years in Congress. Former energy secretary under Bill Clinton. United Nations ambassador. World record holder for most handshakes in a single day (13,392, in January 2002 at the New Mexico State Fair and a University of New Mexico tailgate party). In 1994, he negotiated for the release of a U.S. helicopter pilot shot down over North Korea and, in 2000, made Al Gore's short list of potential running mates. He won re-election last fall with 70 percent of the vote in a predominantly Republican state.
He also recently has been helping negotiate in Darfur, and I have it on good authority that he has helped his red state start thinking about climate change in a serious way.
I'm not endorsing, necessarily. Just griping about how thin the press coverage is.
Breaking news! The Christian Century is going to publish a piece I wrote: "Everything I needed to know about postmodern minsitry, I learned mountain biking." I've used it as a presentation over the years since my work at Spirit Garage, so it feels like an "old" thing to me, but thanks to my dear husband who finally convinced me to get it into printable form. I'll post the link when it's available.
Growing up, my father – a pastor then and a pastor still – had a cartoon on his office door. It was in the style of the New Yorker, but I must assume from a more churchly publication. A pastor is in his office with full bookshelves behind him, books all over his desk, books on the floor, some of them labeled things like (things I should be reading; things I said I’d read years ago, and so on). He’s on the phone, looking harried, and the caption reads, “Thank you Mrs. Dalton for the book you gave me. I’m so looking forward to reading it!”
I am the first to confess a weakness for buying and owning books, and I continue to believe that a book is a thoughtful gift, as long as it’s not “How to make your sermons interesting” or “What not to say at a funeral”. But I will admit to some internal turmoil these days whenever a member says, “I just read/ heard/ downloaded/ watched this really interesting book/ broadcast/podcast/movie. It’s about global warming/ the Bible/ the prison system/ child development/ Iraq/ farming in Nebraska. It’s available online/ re-broadcast tomorrow/ at Barnes and Noble/ in yesterday’s paper.”
Those of you members of ECLC reading this, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU. Not really, anyway.
I do appreciate good recommendations and rely on them from people I trust. But on my worse days I have this urge to ask, “How often do you think that I, as the mother of two small children with a call to ministry and a spouse who travels a lot, go to a movie/ listen to an entire anything online/ read an entire book just for the heck of it?”
I actually probably do read more than the average American, because we have no TV and we are bedtime Nazis at our house. But I could spend several months just reading the books in my house that I have not already read. Don’t get me started on movies. Netflix doesn’t help when you start yawning at 9:00 p.m. every night and the dishes still aren’t done.
I don’t mean to whine, but it illustrates a dilemma for me, one that I think most people feel on some level in this era when SO MUCH is available. I know there are many people for whom access to libraries or the Internet is still an issue, but I don’t run into many of them. Most of us have the opposite problem – there’s just too much to sort through, too many podcasts/ broadcasts/ books/ movies/ websites in our reach and on our minds, and no earthly way to sort through them all. God help me if we had cable TV too. We’re long past the days of wanting more choices at my house. Less is more.
Now that I’ve vented, I wil make one eeny weensy raving recommendation. There’s been so much grief in our congregation over the past year that I finally picked up Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. It is stunningly good. If you know anyone grieving, read it. You will get a window into their world.
Well, I've been fresh out of original thoughts this week. Might have something to do with re-entry from a monastery straight into a funeral, kindergarten selection for our oldest, preaching and now 10 days of single parenting lying ahead. Whew.
So instead I've finally updated my typelists a bit. I've tried to keep these short and small, in part because I like the idea of actually knowing most of the people on my blogrolls. I can now say I've met the creator of Journey with Jesus, Daniel Clenendin, who was also at the writers workshop I attended two weeks ago. Good stuff there. And I really do know the creator of the Ironic Catholic, who wishes to remain anonymous. But I can vouch for her Catholic and her theological credentials, and I second her wish that the gift of bilocation be bestowed upon mothers. I mean really, it's wasted on monastic types.
The “Writing as Spiritual Practice” workshop last week was lovely. Mount Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara is a bright and still place of refuge overlooking the bay. The quiet alone would have been restorative, but in addition I got the company of 22 writers, including Nora Gallagher and Barbara Brown Taylor. We had every morning to write and each afternoon to discuss, Eucharist every day if we wanted it, wonderful food, comfortable beds. I felt like someone opened the windows on a stuffy room in my brain.
But then Thursday evening I got horrible news. A member of our community was killed in a car accident, along with her sister-in-law. Friday morning I learned that my successor at Spirit Garage lost both his parents to a car accident last week as well. I changed my flight to a red-eye Saturday night so that I could be back Sunday for worship and visitation in the evening. Turns out a sister of the deceased was on the same flight.
The visitation took place here at the church last night, and people started arriving 30 minutes before the published time, blinking as if they’d just been awakened at midnight by a harsh and unfamiliar alarm. Members of our congregation who have entered this building thousands of times looked disoriented. Before long the line to the coffin in the sanctuary extended into the narthex and down the hall, the whole length of the building. People who rarely hug embraced as if they had been away on a long journey. Some stood in that line for two hours, but not a word of impatience was spoken, not a complaint about aching feet or backs.
Earlier in the afternoon we had hosted a birthday party for a woman in our congregation who has turned 100. She has outlived most members of her family, including her daughter, and there was no question that this was where the celebration should be held. She wore purple, a classy ulstra suede jacket and a big corsage. There were mounds of food and music and laughter, and then the odd transition began as the building put on its mourning clothes. Friends and family members packed up the birthday cards and sweets as the funeral home arrived with the body of this woman, just shy of her 60th birthday, killed in an instant.
I am proud of this community and the love it pours out in joy and in sorrow, but I am even more grateful for the existence of the church, this place where the old have family when the blood relatives are gone, and where families who suddenly find themselves literally motherless can also gather, where senseless loss is shared, and held, in the embrace of God.