All in Bookish

Where's My Daughter? Call Her Forth

I offer my stories—my vulnerable, awkward, growing-up stories—because I’m leveling the playing the field. I want to bear some of what it is my students are going through so they will trust themselves to get at their stories. I’m attempting to pull something out of them, as the Nurse does for Juliet, as Mrs. Carlson has done for me.

Cooking

I love to roam the food writing section of a bookstore, thumbing through cookbooks and looking for the latest cooking memoir. Though my kitchen shelves are nearly full, I can always squeeze in another book of recipes or something educational and fun to read like Michael Pollan’s Cooked. I feel a kinship with people who work with food and spend untold hours in the kitchen. I’m drawn to their stories like a magnet.

Here I Sit

The act of writing itself carves out space for beauty in my life. This has always been true, but without the pretention of doing something big and important, I can relax into whatever shows up on paper—the mess and joy and struggle and grief and giggles of life. These are not the habits of a serious writer, of course. These are not the daily practices and evaluations needed to send a piece out into the world, just as letting the garden go to the wild won’t work as a long-term strategy. But this is what writing is to me right now, how I remember that writing starts with glimpsing into a world of magic, that it starts with, “Here I sit.”

The Anxious Agitator: Martin Luther

Martin quotes Jesus, who said, “Do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” As we amble through the grass, I picture Martin as the young man who bolted across this very meadow, caught in the stormy terror of God’s wrath. Here he is, speaking of grace. I know that it’s not easy for him. But he offers that grace to me, all the same.

The Full Spectrum

There is only one element I don’t want here in this jumble of life that is suddenly, surprisingly beautiful to me. Except sometimes I do want it, when the autism augments the good of who my daughter is without adding to her misery, that same misery we all know in one way or another during this life between Edens. What I want is for the autism to diminish, and if it can’t do that in her bodily experience, then at least it can grow smaller within the space it takes up in my imagining and understanding of this wonderful girl. I don’t yet know how to relegate it to its proper place, but I am hopeful. If my favorite house is the messy one now, then I can change and grow, too.

The Dilemma of Desire: Juana Inés de la Cruz

You haven’t heard of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz? You can blame it on centuries of storytellers, the ones who’ve recounted the intellectual traditions of men and ignored the silent and silenced contributions of women. Your ignorance is no surprise. Even in her own day, Juana’s bold public voice was hushed by bishops and priests. It’s been 350 years since she lived, but it’s not too late to bring Juana back. Her words have been here all along.

A Map of the Heavens in Four Poems

It lies on its side, that large, bell-cupped vessel. With the seraph-scrolled handle meant. For comfort’s grip, meant to hold tea and warmth. It is nearly empty and very cold now, rolling on its curve.

In the other room, I can hear him thrashing. I ignore the sounds, the moaning, finally, the silence. In my chair, I read a magazine, anything to delay. The vault into that high bed with the pillow top.

A Shimmer of Possibility

I remember which bookcase it was on, where it was on the shelf, what the light was like. Maybe I opened it to a sentence that might as well have been in neon, a passage I admired for its construction and loved for its truth. I've kept the book all these years and reread it, or at least part of it, a few times (evidenced by the geological strata of marginal notes). And for decades I’ve kept a little sign on my desk with one of her sentences, printed in a font that now seems to scream 1990s: “Work is the backbone of a properly conducted life, serving at once to give it shape and hold it up.” 

Garden in the East

The body I am tending is a living and organic revelation of the unseen spirit inside. We are sacraments of the One who made us—beautifully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist would say. I am given charge of this garden from season to season, from birth to death. So, what if I tend to the body the way an attentive gardener would his garden? What then? What is the watering? Where is the history buried here beneath the oak? How do I help to bring about the blooming of springtime flowers even as I embrace the stretch marks and surgery scars in the skin that covers my miraculous muscles? 

Lessons in Copycatting

They say good artists copy and great artists steal, so for one, no point worrying about my authorial voice issuing from deep within—I’m an artist, thank you!—and for another thing, why was I born not knowing how to express myself if not so someone could teach me?