Cultivating My Mind

St. Valentine, the legend has it, sacrificed his life to his belief that all Christians should have the privilege of marriage.

My husband is cooking a day-after-Valentine’s-Day dinner in honor of me, but I am unworthy: latent, burrowed, growing fallow. My fingers are dry from scraping along the autumn of my mind, searching for the small pool where a few bright buttercups grow softly. But this place has been lost in the midst of a heavy frost.

So I take up a simple waiting: waiting to grow older, waiting to know more. I am waiting for You to take up the broken ground inside me and craft it strong for building. I am waiting for You to rake the leaves and find the pool. Enter in as Keeper, and I will take up my hoe.

Married on a Friday

Yes, I was married on a Friday, but in this instance, I am speaking of being married on a Friday. This Friday.

I am on my laptop in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment. The couch I’m sitting on is the Asian/woven-looking red and black one we bought for $15. The sun must be setting because the world is a frozen blue-gray outside the picture window.

Periodically my husband asks me to get up and help him with something: he is crafting our bed, and has hardly used anything but hand tools. It is made of a creamy oak, and his methods make me think of the Amish, whom I greatly admire.

By the way, he is also making the bed in the living room. After all, it’s not like we have a wood shop.

This is my life at this moment: wood and cloth projects–crochet, carpentry–listening NPR or Cities 97 or a book on CD because we don’t have and don’t want a TV, thinking about ethnicity, thinking about grad school, thinking about grammar, making plans.

I think it is good, this life we are making for ourselves. Very good.

Lesson on the Ice

As the sun sets over the anthill of rush hour on Snelling, I listen to the crisp shhh of my skates over the ice. I am learning this movement slowly: how to bend my knees and push myself forward, how to cross one foot over the other as I turn, again and again, in the snowy ring I am creating.

How to breathe in Minnesota February, and breathe out the comfort of mittens and black tea and this, my blades cutting softly into the cold.

As I circle, I am beginning to understand what home is–not the place I spoke my first words and learned to sew and kissed my first boyfriend. The place where my collection of poetry and prose mixes with my husband’s classics and language textbooks.

So this movement I must learn also: how to fold his laundry neatly in thirds, how to count the hours as I wait for him, how to speak to him with arms and eyes and lips.


I have never done much painting. I love drawing, but I maneuvered my art minor in such a way to avoid struggling with paint.

I love looking at paintings, and maybe part of it is that the process is so simple in concept but so complex in theory and technique. Painting holds a mystery about it because I am still academically unfamiliar with it, unlike printmaking or ceramics.

Perhaps this is why I have been stuck on an image of God as painter and identity-revealer for nearly a year now. The thought came to me at a time when discussion of identity was purely theoretical and theological; now I find myself flailing for some semblance of an identity to hold onto.

Everything about my identity seems to have changed over this year: I was completely single on January 1, 2009, and on January 1, 2010 I was married; I was a student, and now I am simply another in the ranks of the white collar workers; I was a creative writer and now I struggle to hold onto the beauty of words when my job as a grant writer requires me to fold and form them into proposals and applications and business letters.

I recently discovered that everything I care about most is non-utilitarian, whereas every aspect of my occupation is greatly utilitarian.

So I turn and turn again to a God of the easel: I imagine him seeing me, one tube of paint among many. I am the color of forests in early spring, perhaps. He picks up my color, squeezes me onto his palette. As creator of the painting, he studies where my color belongs, and as the perfect artist, he knows my place. He takes his brush and paints me onto the canvas of time, onto the canvas of the Twin Cities, onto the canvas of Northwestern College. He paints me into the spaces for which my color was made, and by doing so, he says, “This is your place.”

And he is right. As a color, I have no eyes to see this work he is making, no hands to touch its thickness and size. As a color, I must trust the artist to see me as what I am and allow me to be what I am.

The Start Gun

On my lunch break today, I read the semicolons chapter of Lynn Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I have the illustrated version.

So I will give my opinion of that nice little device: I am in favor. Even in poetry. In fact, in college, I often used semicolons in my poetry; I have known people who found them annoying, or distracting, or something: simply didn’t like them meddling about in lines and giving unsure pause times at the ends of lines. Why not, they posed, make the second verb a gerund instead?

But to have a semicolon in a poem is to force your reader to hold the tension. And I like making people uncomfortable holding this tension. They can’t decide which verb, which clause, is more important; they must allow each to be equally so, must allow them to fight it out–like I imagine identical twins must do from time to time.