Thursday, February 21, 2008


I am in Nashville, Tennessee. I have tiny bits of rib meat stuck between my teeth ... and no dental floss in sight. I am just back from the Wildhorse Saloon.

The Wildhorse Saloon is somewhat disappointing but then, our group is tea totalling on this night. It is designed, no doubt, to be most enjoyed accompanied by a few beers. We did not, for instance, line dance.

But the food is good, sort of, the music loud, people friendly, and I walk home (a couple miles) with a new aquaintance from the conference. We walk through the music district and the ambiance is great. Small music bars with front doors open carry live music into the street. Buskers in doorways settle onto cement steps with guitar cases open and tiny little speakers just in front of them. I feel safe. The crowd on the streets is older than I would expect, but there are plenty of young musicians around.

It has been a 'better than expected' conference. I have some important take homes and feel refreshed from meeting and listening to Michael Card. Now I have to find some dental floss.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

12,000 nights

"the more I think about loneliness, the more I think that the wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon - a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding." Henri Nouwen

I see a lot of loneliness. I feel a lot of loneliness. A recently divorced woman tells me she lives in too much silence - it is the pain of her life. My haircutter has moved back to England because her kids have left home and she is lonely for her mom and her country. I miss her accent and her funky cuts. A man whose wife has become remote to him walks around like an empty iPod, no music, no light step, no life in his eyes.

I sleep beside Steve every night. I have done this for something over 12,000 nights. (There is a title for a dull movie, "12,000 nights." Laughing ) I like very much that he is beside me like a log, snoring or hogging blankets, or making me laugh.

Last night he said, before he fell asleep, "Has it turned out like you thought it would?" I said, "No. It is a lot better than I ever expected." He said, "Me too. I am very happy." Then I said, "If I die, it will probably be in my car. I hope the damage is not very much so you can get it fixed and give it to Rachel." He said, "If you die in your car I hope the damage is total, that the car is unrecoverable. If you die in your car I want to be able to think that you didn't feel a thing, that it was immediate, that you didn't suffer." I said,"Well then, use the insurance to buy Rae a new car."

This is the kind of conversation people who have slept together for 12,000 nights have. It doesn't mean we are never lonely. But it is nice to have someone around to tell when loneliness hits.

Friday, February 15, 2008

signs of spring

Two days ago I am driving to work behind a school bus (one of dozens on the country roads in Wilmore.) Rain falls on ice and makes the drive perilous. I stay well behind the bus. But then, horrors! I see a small skunk racing out onto the road ahead of us both. The bus plows ahead, and I tap my brakes, and ARGH!!!! the bus squishes the skunk completely flat squirting all the spray my direction, even though I try to give as much space as possible. My prius is bathed in stink!

Just as the stink begins to settle to the strength of a dull headache, it happens again~! I am on the same road this morning at 7:45, the same spot, and two cars ahead of me a skunk is hit, flips sideways, rolls backwards as the car ahead of me swerves, and it lands - plop - right in front of me. I don't hit it, just bath in the beauty of natural odors.

So that is Kentucky folks. The skunks are up and about and that means spring is upon us. And my poor car, no longer the sacred car, is profaned fully. I can't even park it in the garage because the smell is so strong it floats into the house.

I am writing this because my grief and fury at what happened yesterday in Illinois is too hard to write about. At our seminary I have had a student threaten my life and several others. There is no commentary I can think of just yet that can adequately open this issue. I want to see the beauty that surfaces from good souls when pernicious acts invade their lives. But right now I am so very angry.

So let's talk about spring, which has beauty and some stink too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

heart day

So Steve came home last night with two Kroger bags stuffed with pink and red. He pulled out 15 little designer bags, 15 small heart shaped chocolate boxes, some candy, some cards ... and began to arrange them into little packages telling me he was giving Valentines his single women friends who are part of our church. Today he is driving around like the UPS delivery boy depositing love where there might not be any.

Karen (name changed) came into my office, loudly, as Karen does, and laughing said, "Did you put him up to this?" She said she hadn't gotten a Valentine since her #!*__#! husband had left her. She took the bag home to her girls, one of whom said she wanted to marry someone like Steve.

Sue (name also changed) came to me and said, "I got a little bag on my office doorknob...." to which I replied - I had nothing to do with it! Her pleasure was not disguised by her reserve and professional demeanor. She was happy.

Now, the chocolates are not very special. I think they cost $1.00 a box. And being a man-mission there was no tissue paper, and a few too many Hershey Kisses. But it does speak to the idea that we all need a bit of love in any form, and we all like surprises.

So the word is that the 'big plan' Steve had for our Valentines has fallen through ... so he will just have to come to the 'sweetheart night' at Jazzercise. If I can get him to do that, it will be love!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

like a baby

We are home. Walter is fatter than when we left her. She must have eaten her way through her stress. There are cigarettes put out in a glass on the porch - hope JV had a friend over and it wasn't him smoking. A bit stuffy - we can air the house out.

I find I need to wait now for my soul to catch up to my body. I need to be alone, to exercise, to go to bed early, to pray and write.

In my experience it isn't the big events that strengthen me and make me feel settled and secure. (Don't get me wrong, I love the big events.) But it is routine, ritual, habits of life like coffee in the morning, scrabble while eating dinner with Steve, and prayer at night that hold me steady and make me feel rich and well.

So last night I went to Jazzercise and I am going again this morning. After I have my cup of coffee.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Steve's camel sniffed the wind.

and so I dream of fair Samarkand
my camels sniff the wind and they are glad

... which means he wants to go home. To Walter. To the cold. To his bed. So I am doping him with American Gangster tonight and he will relax.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

the mist

Steve was in Orlando last night and while I wait for him this afternoon I indulge in a movie, recommended by my friend, Nick 'at night' who reviews movies for me. It is The Mist, a Stephen King movie.

To be honest, I almost turn it off in the first half hour because it seems so dumb. A mist rolls through a rural town killing all in its path. Turns out the mist is full of super bugs and horrific creatures, all eager to rip the skin off a beefy guy, or suck the face from a seductive girl, or spin the arrogant lawyer into a websack and use his body as a feeding bed for millions of baby spiders ... use your imagination.

But I stick it out and endure the web spitting mega spiders, the ranting fundamentalist Christian predicting the apocalypse, the father fighting for his terrorized boy.

The story ends horribly. I will spare you the details.

Back in the real world, I welcome Steve back while outside my patio window the children still frolick poolside as the waves beat the shore and the sun washes the sand.

Monday, February 4, 2008

wash day

So it is Superbowl - and room 1806 is full of snacks and noise and men and a couple women but not full of me. I am just outside the patio doors sitting on a white plastic chair with my feet on another white plastic chair and a bottle of Mango Frog half finished on the table beside me. Also half finished is a Pizza Hut mushroom, pepperoni, and green pepper pizza. I am owning my life by not watching the game and eating what I want.

With me are Cheryl Dorral and Duncan and Bonnie MacDonald. The only fly in the ointment is the hot tub burbling ten feet away, sending tantalizing odors of chemicals and heat, flickering pink and green lights our way.

Steve comes through the doors of room 1806, plunks himself down, steals a piece of pizza and says, 'having fun Mare?' We laugh and begin to complain that we would be having fun if we had our bathing suits on and were in the hot tub.

Steve stands up, pulls off his watch, plunks his wallet down on the table, and struts over to the hot tub, fully dressed and shoed, and with a flourish, submerges himself! Whooooeee! I pull off my silk shirt (sports bra on, don't worry), dump my watch and jump in. Duncan peels off his shirt and shoes and joins us .... soon there are seven people laughing and kibitzing with abandon in the hotpool. A man on the second floor abruptly bangs his patio door shut. Bonnie adds her body to the water bringing the stack of napkins left from the pizza. She puts them on the side for 'after'. Who needs towels?

Walking home is not a lot of fun - I feel like a little kid who peed my pants ... the denim is cold and clammy and dripping and rubbing on my thighs in a miserable sort of way. I throw my wet stuff into the tub and crawl into bed all soft and soggy, knowing I should shower and will probably get some flesh eating disease from the little cuts on my legs from shaving. But the quilt is all fat and welcoming. yummmmy

This morning I am doing wash. It costs me 44 quarters, two trips to the concierge for change, a fight with a machine that won't cooperate. Don't mind it a bit.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

bodies on the beach

I am on St Pete's beach in south Florida. Today the temp reaches 80 with gusts of wind that bring the number down to say, 74, off and on. I settle myself on a cabana and tune into the humanity around me.

Two cabanas to my left are a man and woman who are not young, fairly lean and very brown. The man wears a black thong which is little more than a shoe-lace with a drooping wasp nest hanging down the front. He often stands up and rearranges himself in the most private of ways, publicly. His cabana mate is a woman wearing a similar thong, and nothing else. She has remarkably perky boobs for a woman of age - I will not presume to know how they manage to perk - which for all their perkiness still point west and east and south at the same time. I admire their freedom and confidence. (The people, not the boobs.) I don't admire their brown skin (cancer alert!) I see both the beautiful and the not so beautiful sides of their nakedness. I excuse them in my mind, figuring they must be french.

I notice, while I am aware of them, that men walking the beach are also aware and rubber neck as they pass. One man begins to walk in a clumsy almost backwards way after he passes them. (Now it could be that these men are looking at me, since I am also in their view line, but it seems unlikely.)

Three girls plunk down about 30 feet ahead of me right by the waves. They bring music, snacks, tan cream, blankets, books, and stuff I can't identify. Two of them have swinging blond hair that they tie up in recklessly beautiful top knots. The third has dark short hair and a curvy body clad in a red bikini. They are beautiful to me. I can hear them chatter and one of the blonds offers harsh commentary speckled with course explitives. I watch them and wonder if they know how lovely they are with their imperfect smooth skin and soft curves.

A 30ish man just ahead and to my right is pulling off his shorts, arranging himself on his back in his speedo, and laying out his muscles with pilates-style tension. He arranges his manhood several times, perhaps desiring to make a mountain out of a molehill, to be crude, and finally settles down to brown his attractive self.

Other than that I see a wide variety of old bodies - some round and some lean, but all showing the effects of time. Oh, and of course, the older man who arranges my cabana and comes over to tell me to be sure to let him know if I leave and am not coming back. Interestingly, he has pierced nipples, a charm I would have thought would be reserved for someone a little younger.

I take my can of 70 spf and spray my legs and settle back into the shade.