Drive-by posting

Whoops, it’s gone almost a month without a blog post. That can happen this time of year.

When I got back from Chicago it was still definitely not spring yet here in Maine, but the last few days have been clear and beautiful and the snow that I thought would be here forever is mostly gone. It is mud time, soft earth and last year’s limp dead leaves on the ground, the tiny shoots of growing things just barely making their first appearance.

It’s finally warm enough to varnish paintings so I’ve been working through the backlog of art from this winter.

And it’s the end of the semester, so I’ve been engaged in epic procrastination around my end-of-term projects. I have thoughts about interesting things – some of them end up on the Sand Hill Diary’s facebook page these days – but long form writing is likely to wait until next month.

Blessed be the turning of the day, of the seasons, of our lives. Amen.

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All the Colors

The weather in Chicago has been beautiful the last week – for a day or two I was lamenting that I had not packed more short sleeves, and the last several days have been cool and clear. Nothing lasts forever, though, and we are expecting to see a little bit of snow soon. At least I packed for that.

Staying in a different part of town this time, a little further away than I have been in the past. I have appreciated the pleasant weather on the half-hour walk down to school, but I suspect the snow will send me scurrying for the L tomorrow morning.

I am in love with this place. It is so perfectly imperfect, a kaleidoscope of improbable quirks that put together are so real and vivid. Continue reading

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As We Are Called

The suitcase is in the living room again and I am once more packing for travel to Chicago. We’ve had a good long stretch of uneventful weather, but are forecast for another storm on Saturday when I’m scheduled to fly out, so I am praying for the bad weather to be some other time and some other place than when and where I need to be on an airplane. Such is modern life: we have the expectation that somehow our lives will continue, full pace, unaffected by petty circumstances such as winter weather. What would it look like if we lived in ways that were integrated with our environment?

Well, I would probably not be traveling to Chicago all the time, for one thing. It is a minor miracle – or defiant human ingenuity – that I can bop halfway across the continent in a few hours’ time (weather permitting.) It is another miracle of human ingenuity that I did not have to move there to go to seminary there; that I have this magic box with keys on which I can type these words and send them out into a place which is not a place, a world parallel to the physical world, where any of you who are so inclined can reach out and pull them down into your magic box and read them, wherever you are. Is this not wow? We live in the future. Really.

I have been spending a lot of time making art lately, which sounds a lot less pretentious than “I have been making a lot of art,” which is also somewhat true. I will be leaving a number of unfinished things here in Maine when I head to school, and that makes me itchy. But I have finished more pieces this winter than I did in all of 2014, so I will call that a qualified success – qualified because I have more ideas than I have time or skill to realize, and qualified also because I have more stuff than I have space to store or work with. First world problems, indeed.

I find it delightful and amusing and maybe a bit ironic that seminary and the formation process have for me the side effect of art squishing out of my life all over the place. If working on my MDiv is making me a more prolific (and arguably better) artist, will I need to do a MFA degree to become an effective minister? I hope not! One graduate degree at a time.

That was my joke of the day for yesterday, at least. But like any joke it has a thread of uncomfortable truth woven in; that’s what makes things funny. Continue reading

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A Miscellaneous Collection of Impractical Things

Somehow it got to be March while I was doing things other than updating the blog. That happens a lot now.

I have not been idle. I have been occupied with an assortment of things – feeding my soul through art, writing for my church and for my upcoming classes, a few rounds with a head cold that Spouse brought home a couple of weeks back. All the bits and pieces that add up to the ordinary reflective sort of life that belongs to a person who also, occasionally, gets a wild hair to paint flowers on a snowbank in the front yard. Just in case anyone was wondering what sort of person does that sort of thing.

Part of it, I think, is that the flowers painted on the snowbank sort of went viral – I am still getting more hits on that post than on everything else put together, so my Bacon Cat suspicions are proving true – and I find myself wondering whether I really want to put this thought or that one in my public internet spaces which at the moment are mostly being viewed by people who are tired of looking at winter and probably not thinking too much about ministerial formation or Unitarian Universalism.

Do I really want to put my whole self out there? Old habits die so hard. Continue reading

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A Rose in the Wintertime

And I’ll bring you hope
When hope is hard to find,
And I’ll bring a song of love
And a rose in the wintertime

I have to admit that has never been one of my favorite hymns. The melody is simple, almost sing-song, far perkier than I usually feel at this time of the year. And I flinch at the image of a perfect rose – grown somewhere far away under who knows what kind of labor and environmental conditions and imported for out-of-season retail sale – as a midwinter expression of love and beauty. If there must be flowers, I prefer them local and home grown, thanks.

But it is February and not very much is growing here this time of year.

Here in central Maine we have had five or six accumulating snowstorms – at least three of them over eight inches – in the last three weeks. Two storms the last week I was in Chicago left at least two feet of fresh snow on the ground and it’s kept coming, one storm after the next, since I’ve been back. And we have more coming this weekend, another coastal storm that is forecast to dump a foot or more here and twice that downeast. Not sure what Boston is getting this time around, but they bore the brunt of the last storm that only gave us a glancing blow, so I will forgive them if they get off easy this time.

I shoveled the back roof on Thursday. Understand that I did not grow up in snow country and “shovel the roof” is a phrase that makes no sense in my native vocabulary. Nevertheless, Thursday morning I was out on the back roof, the part over the kitchen extension and the sun porch, in my pajamas, shoveling snow off the roof in preparation for the next load to arrive. Okay, I had my coat and boots on in addition to my pajamas, scooting along the roof on my backside pushing snow off it with the shovel. The roof in question is just steep enough and just high enough, and I am just clumsy enough, that standing up there when it’s full of ice does not seem like a good idea. I may be arguably crazy, but I’m not stupid. Continue reading

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Home again

“Wherever I have been, I am back,” Gandalf replied. That may not be an exact quote. My tattered, brittle paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is not where I remember leaving it for the last several years – I think I must have attempted to clean house before I left town last month, and this is what happens when I do things like that. Anyway, I am back in Maine, back on the blog – at least for the time being.

It has been a long, rich, full few weeks. Experiences and studies layer onto each other like a formational seven-layer taco dip extravaganza with extra guacamole. I spent a lot of time in my Liberal Theology class processing ideas I picked up during the Multicultural Congregations class I took back in November, and then a big chunk of my Digital Media in Ministry class was tangled up in ideas left over from Liberal Theology. This is not a bad thing, actually, though sometimes it makes getting done the particular work for a particular class somewhat complicated and confusing. But in the end, all the bits and pieces are interconnected, a whole beyond the sum of its component parts, and if where to start is important so is which way to go and what to do with all the things as we get them.

Continue reading

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Notes from Chicago

I’ve been here a week. It would have been a week yesterday, but I spent last Thursday in transit, connecting flights cancelled, and standby to Chicago the next morning on a different airplane than my checked luggage with which I didn’t reconnect until the next day.

It happens to somebody every time. At least I have learned to pack my prescriptions and pajamas and a change or so of clothes in my carry on luggage.

I’m staying with classmates in an apartment this time, instead of the hostel – feeding my need for some silence and solitude and sanity. We are in a high-rise and the view is beautiful. It is warm tonight – well, warm for Chicago in January; it might be near or even above freezing – and not snowing, and the streets below are crawling with late traffic, red tail lights and white head lights, orange street lamps, green traffic signals and the occasional flashing blue police police car. I could go out, but being right here is pretty good – even if the formerly-Sears tower still looks kind of like the gate to Mordor, glistening black with up-lit white horns on top.

I had not ever paid attention to the sculpture installation at the south end of Grant Park, but I am walking past it every day now, and for the life of me I think it looks like a bunch of giant iron pantyhose. I forgot my camera, or I’d take a picture.

I am so grateful for this itinerant community. I will be traveling elsewhere next week, and then back to Chicago at the end of the month, before returning to my usual haunts. We are scattered, but connected: beads of dew glistening on a spider’s web.

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