Remember
that the whole earth is a sacrament-
a limitless possibility of encountering
God reaching toward us.

January 5, 2023

Image: Melanie Kyer

A Dialog with Epiphany

Arise, shine, for your light has come!

          But I’m tired and really need to sleep some more.

The shepherds are following the light to the Christ Child.

          But I’ve really got to watch these sheep, I’ll come along later.

The wise men are traveling afar to bring gifts,

          But I didn’t have time to shop, I can’t come empty handed.

The drummer boy is offering a song for the baby Jesus,

          But I’m just not that musical.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

          But…Wait, even me?

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

          I can do that. Maybe while I’m making dinner.

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace. Goodwill to all.

          Yes, please. All of this.

Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

         Guidance. I could definitely use some of that.

– Melanie Kyer

 

December 22, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace

Four small candles

The first flame is hope
It flickers out
But is quickly relit

Faith comes to life
uncertainly on its tiny wick
Yet the darkness retreats

Joy shares its glow
And unexpected strength
With the other two

Peace wavers unsteadily
So small and fragile
And so promisingly bright

Four small candles
The light comes from them
But the work is ours.

Barbara Ryther

 

December 15th, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

A Familiar Story

Every year we start the story again. We know this one! The characters are familiar, the plot twists aren’t a surprise anymore. A prophecy! A miraculous pregnancy! A star! Humble shepherds, wise visitors, evil ruler! Flee! We even know how it ends. Preaching, teaching, miracles, then fear, death, resurrection.

We’re comfortable with this story, perhaps too comfortable. It’s like an annual holiday movie that we’ve seen so many times we no longer really watch it but just let it play in the background while we bake cookies and wrap presents.

Maybe this year it’s time for fresh eyes and ears, for a newly open and waiting heart. What if we paid more attention to each part of the story as it unfolds and listened without mentally leaping ahead to the last chapter? What if we discarded what we think we know happened, and looked more deeply into the people and events?

It can be good to hear a familiar story over and over. This year, let’s find something new, be open to surprises, and let it change us.

 – Barbara Ryther 

 

November 24, 2022

The “Pie Ladies” of St. George’s Church

Feasting on homemade pies on Monday afternoons was a church-sponsored tradition for residents of the former Harbor Home, a small state-run facility in York Harbor, Maine. Here, in a quiet two-story brick building little more than a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, a flurry of anticipation proceeded the weekly arrival of three women from Saint George’s Church affectionately known as the “pie ladies.”

The pie ladies were church volunteers who came to serve pies they made in their own kitchens. On the day I visited them, “pie lady” Rosie Littlefield was the first to arrive. She put two pies baked Sunday afternoon, a chocolate peanut butter pie with a touch of marshmallow and a zesty cranberry pie, on the serving table.

Harriet Smith arrived next, followed closely by Clair Vaghini, each of them with homemade pies popular with the residents. In the early afternoon, the three women moved café tables to the dining area, then carefully arranged pies and dessert china nearby. Harbor Home staff members set up an industrial-sized coffee pot and began to help residents who needed assistance.

As eager pie-eaters filtered into the dining room and decided who to sit next to, and perhaps who to avoid, I realized pie day wasn’t just about eating pie. It was a social event- for the servers as well as for those served. Pie ladies joined raffles, accompanied residents on mental motorcycle rides, and listened to some interesting stories while serving pie. “I especially get a kick out of the woman who eats her pie quickly, “ one pie lady told me, “then hurries back for seconds, asking: ‘May I have a piece of pie for my friend now?’

Homebaked pie is something you can hardly get too much of, but it is certainly worth a try.

Nina Bisognani

November 9, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

In the Fall

Apples are at their best in the fall…

I look for smooth, red skin.

No bruises, please.

Honey Crisps for eating

Macs for sauce

Cortlands for 

crisps or pies.

 

Today is a good day for a crisp.

At the farm stand

I buy six Cortlands.

 

At home with my apples, 

the peeling begins.

I remember

my grandmother’s challenge—

only one long peel per apple.

After years of practice,

six unbroken peels—

one for each apple—

fall from my knife.

 

Now, mouthwatering slices fill the pan—

all but one slim wedge—

the cook’s sample!

 

A sprinkle of tart lemon juice

on the crisp slices

cuts the sweetness and

stops any browning.

Then oatmeal, brown sugar

and butter are cut together

with a teaspoon of spicy cinnamon.

The buttery crumble tops the apples

and the crisp is ready to bake.

 

Of all the fall harvest smells–

the dusky leaves rustling on the ground…

new mown hay fields…

apples crushed in a cider press…

pumpkin pies cooling–

the scent of apple crisp baking 

is best.

 

Now—where’s the ice cream?

Sudie Blanchard
10.15.22

November 2, 2022

Image: Barbara Kautz

The Lion and the Sparrow

At the arc of dawn
in that blue and burning place
between what was
and what is yet to be
sits a lion.

With shoulders like mountains
and flames for eyes
the lion awaits morning
as if calling it into being.

So, too, awaits the sparrow
sitting on its plexus
where mane meets muscled back.

Her expectation
is a feathered patience,
soft
and hopeful
like the birth of a song.

And so unfolds an elusive wisdom,
tender like a sacrifice: 
the unyielding ferocity
of such willing vulnerability.

Kathryn Yingst
9.17.22

October 27, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Thoughts from the beach: Grace

I’ve been thinking about the most recent Medications post, about how hard it can be to say “I’m sorry” particularly when the world seems unforgiving.

To say “I forgive you” is also hard, but for different reasons.  We hug our hurt to ourselves, protecting it, nurturing it, unable to let it go.  Our hurt, our anger, our self-righteousness are all so important to us, so much a part of us – both a shield and a weapon.  We think our hurt gives us energy and protection but in truth it drains us and separates us from those around us. Offering forgiveness, letting the hurt go, frees us, removes obstacles and heals our scars. 

When I walk on the beach as the tide is going out, I see what the retreating waves have done to the sand, and to the accumulation of stones, shells, seaweed, and even footprints.  Washed clean, free of obstacles and scars.  A fresh start.  Forgiveness, written in sand and water.  

But even more than forgiveness – grace.  As with God’s grace, the sand didn’t have to ask for the tide, it is freely given twice a day.  The sand is not measured for worthiness each time the tide rises and falls, it is simply washed clean and given a fresh start.  And day after day, night after night, it accepts this act of grace.  If only we could do the same with God’s grace.

Barbara Ryther

September 29, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

I’m Sorry

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

I have friends who are atheists, and I respect their choice. I have friends who are Christian but do not attend services, and I understand how busy life can get. I can even understand the frustration of those who feel alienated by organized religion. I certainly believe it is possible to be a good person without attending church every Sunday. But…there is something people miss who do not attend a service or have a daily commitment to prayer. People who don’t reflect daily on their actions may miss the opportunity to accept their personal fallibility. More and more these days, people seem unwilling to say the simple words: “I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.” Denial and deflection of blame are the playbook that keeps celebrities and politicians from taking any responsibility and thus setting a sad standard for the rest of us.

The confession above is part of our church service and centers around our admission of sin to God, but as I recited it last week, I noticed how easy and comfortable it can be to turn that prayer into a safe little poetic turn of phrase, private between us and God. But…what would happen if we lived our “Sorry”? More than just the easy “I’m sorry” when we bump into someone in the hallway or miss an appointment.  What if we truly stepped out of church into the world with the intent of repairing the brokenness? Of admitting to others (not just to God) that we have done wrong? For me, that’s not always so easy.  It means being vulnerable. The world is made up of human beings who aren’t always as forgiving as God. Sometimes it seems like people can’t wait to see others make a false step. Fortunately, God is beside us and rooting for us. Maybe even nudging us a little.

So let me start: if I have ever hurt your feelings, I am truly sorry. Feel free to let me know and I will try to do better. And now it’s your turn… 

Melanie Kyer
8/17/2022

 

September 15, 2022

Image: Kirsten Kautz

Earworms

Earworm: a piece of a song or music that runs constantly through a person’s mind.

According to Google nine out of ten people have earworms. That is, they hear a catchy tune and all or part of it goes around and around in a person’s head until it is replaced by another earworm.

My mother was the Queen of all earworms. She could whistle or hum part of a Bach cantata one moment and thirty seconds later be humming  Benny Goodman, soon to be followed by a hymn. Sometimes it drove me crazy. Had she been able to stick to one song that would have been fine, I could have hummed along with her. But that was not the case.

Then in the summer of 2007 she fell and fractured two bones in her face. She was in York Hospital for two weeks and spent the rest of the summer recovering at chez Kautz. Over the summer I learned to gauge how she felt by her humming. A little: it was a bad day. A lot: she was feeling fine.

I have inherited Mom’s propensity for earworms. And I may have this peculiar condition far worse than she ever did. Name a song I know and it will immediately come to mind, and either fight for space with my current earworm or find a way to join it.  

Right now two sea shanties, one from each coast I’ve been listening to from one of my virtual choirs are fighting for room with the “For All the Saints,” which I’ve been practicing on the piano. [John Kanaka and the maggoty fish from their labors rest!]

The other day I came across a copy of John Rutter’s “For the Beauty of the Earth.” It is not the only version I know. I know at least two more. I hummed both. That said, there was one song stuck so far back in my brain—a song from my childhood I only knew I knew it. I tried hard, but could not even remember a hint of what it was.

And then it stole into my brain yesterday, “This is my Father’s World.”

           “This is my father’s world, and to my listening ear

           All nature sings and ‘round me rings the music of the sphere.”

 Hymn 651 in the 1982 hymnal. I do not remember ever singing it at St. George’s, perhaps because only the melody is printed in the hymnal.

That this hymn should come to mind now seems like a sign of God’s presence in my life. I had a mild case of covid in early July. Now I have the neurological version of long covid with fogginess, some dizziness, an intractable headache, and occasional difficulty remembering names. It is slowly getting better. That “This is My Father’s World” should come to me unbidden as an earworm says to me I am getting better. Thanks be to God.

Barbara Kautz
8/17/2022

 

August 18, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

Girl at the Beach

She was a tiny little thing when I birthed her:
six pounds, eleven ounces , and barely nineteen inches long.
She already had a shock of dark brown hair
and sharp little fingernails. I almost didn’t make it
to the hospital in time.  

Becoming her mother was relatively easy. She didn’t cry much, slept nearly all night, and quickly became eager to test her new environment. 

But that was years ago: before the pandemic deaths brought global fear and heartbreak into our lives; before the onslaught of school shootings pierced our souls; before the horrific crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Russian war crimes in Ukraine made pain an everyday feeling and threatened the existence of freedom.  

When she was young, I loved watching her looking out to sea with one foot dipping into the water, ready to plunge into the unknown world ahead. It was an image so beautiful and naïve and full of life. I pray those times will return; times when we feel safe again; times when we look forward to the next day, and every day that follows. 

My faith tells me they will come. If only we do the work to make them happen. There is so much ahead of us, so much that is good yet to be, so many mountains to climb and crosses to bear along the way.

Nina Bisognani 

August 4, 2022

Image: Sudie Blanchard

Sparrow’s Hope

How does the morning
greet you?
Is it the sparrow’s hope
that calls you from slumber?

The sigh
of a contented bee
as it drapes the peony?

The indigo sky
raises its amber gaze
in welcome;
The tall oak responds
limbs outstretched
as light plays
within its hollows.

“Awake!”
croaks the pond frog
who drifts on the lily,
while beneath him
tiny fish
weave a silver dance.

The earth glistens
sings
tells the story
again.

Do you know that you, too,
are holy?

Kathryn Yingst
6/24/2022

 

July 8, 2022

This Spring, our Wednesday Book Group read Walter Brueggemann’s Praying the Psalms. Brueggemann describes the Psalms as radically vulnerable language from the experience of joy, delight, grief, anguish, fear. That language is offered to God as praise and, often, as shockingly direct petition—a demand to be heard, considered, answered. And that, at times, is where we have to risk beginning if we’re genuinely to open ourselves to God. We can do that in confidence that we’re heard, and received. Being truly heard changes us; hope can and will arise there. 

We’re now trying to walk within so many deeply interwoven crises as a people. This week, three of our writers for our Meditations blog offer poems of petition, waiting in confidence for the hope that belongs to God, and that is always God’s gift. We invite you to pray with us. 

– Fr. Ryan 

Heavy

Sometimes weight is good.
The grounding of a weighted blanket,
Quieting the scrambled anxious twitch,
Enforcing still reflection.
Or the trusting weight of a sleeping child,
Her heartbeat reminding you of love and life.
Or the dog who knows,
Just knows when his weight helps.

Yet lately I feel weight that hurts,
The pack I carry, heavier each day,
With stones engraved with grief,
They bear names known to all,
Ukraine, Uvalde, Chicago,
The names of oppressive politics,
Conflict. Racism. Division.
A broken system my small voice can’t fix.
They bear names of my friends and family,
Struggling with illness, stress, and pain.

I wake up ready to begin the day,
To put on my pack and fight,
Only to see a new stone,
When my heart and back already ache.

Too much to bear alone,
Too important to put down. 
God, thoughts and prayers will never be enough.
I pray for courage to speak truth to power,
And strength to carry every coming stone.

Melanie Kyer
July 7, 2022

Ohio

Rain drops
collect on her lashes
caught
in a summer shower
at soccer camp.
Later
laughter
ice cream with friends,
then tucked in
contentedly
tuckered out.

The day it happens
she is playing piano
until she isn’t
and instead of lessons
there are strong hands
and strange sounds.
Where did the music go?
Someone is wailing.
She covers her ears,
but it doesn’t stop.

It never stops.
That’s what she tells them
about the screaming in her head.
Her mother’s chin trembles
as the doctor writes.
Her father holds the door jamb. 
“Six weeks,” someone says.
It sounds far away
and also very, very close.

Too close.
Everything feels too close.
Like she’s being smothered
even when there’s no one there.
And it’s hard to run
when she can’t breathe
and all she wants to do
is run and run
and run
because she’s too afraid
to sit still.

“Still,” they say
“consider it an opportunity.”
She looks into eyes
that don’t see her.
A girl who wears sneakers
and likes sundaes.
A girl who tries to breathe
when the screaming won’t stop.
A girl who isn’t ready
to be a mother.

A girl. Right. In. Front. Of. Them.

ERASED.

Kathryn Yingst
July 5, 2022

 

 

The glass is not half full.

The glass is shattered into a cloud of shards shooting fire
And bloodstained ice

The tears it weeps at it falls stain the ground with fury
And a suffocating blanket of frustration

It hits the ground as a scream of fear
And a sigh of despair

And lays there empty of hope
Exhausted from the fight
Astonished that it has come to be here, to be like this.

As yet there is no will for the glass to put itself back together,
To gather its shards
To reshape itself
To fill itself again.

Perhaps that time will come.

But it does not come today.

Barbara Ryther

June 9, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Dax

A new baby recently joined our extended family. In the eyes of his parents, he is perfect. But in the eyes of the world, he is not. Dax has Down Syndrome. He is adorably cute. Like his mother he has reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. Like most Down Syndrome babies, he smiles a lot, with his tongue just protruding between his lips.

Dax’s parents are in their mid-30s, that age when the risk of having a baby born with a genetic accident increases. They knew about the risk, decided to take it, and when they learned they were one of 350 couples in their age group to be having a baby with Down Syndrome they chose to keep the pregnancy. Not because of religious beliefs, but because that was the decision they had made long before Dax was conceived.

 I am in awe of them. They are smart, articulate, loving people. They are aware of a future that will be different from that of other parents. They chose that future anyway. I, who have been, and will always be a pro-choice advocate, admire them. I think they are brave.

That Dax’s parents chose life gives me hope. Hope in a world where there is war on three continents, where despots try to force their will on others, where we have forgotten what it means to love one another. In a country where guns outnumber people, where it will soon be easier to buy a gun than terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, that Dax’s parents chose him gives me hope. 

Dax is an old French name that means water. Water means life. His middle name is Christopher, for a grandfather who died far too young, four years before Dax was born. I need not describe the origin of Dax’s middle name.

I stopped watching the news before the mass murder in Uvalde. My breaking point was those ordinary people in Buffalo doing their Saturday grocery shopping, gunned down because they were black. When I was 22, I worked in a neurosurgical ICU in Vietnam.  I know what weapons of war can do to the human body.  It doesn’t surprise me that some of Uvalde’s parents had to identify their children’s remains by the clothes they were wearing.

 In the face of such horror, I try to remember Dax because he and his parents, his grandmothers and grandfather, and his aunts and uncles give me hope. Among them are an exercise specialist, a reading specialist and a special ed teacher. He could not be in better hands. No matter what the future holds for Dax and his parents, one thing he will have in abundance is love.

And in this world, it means a lot.

Barbara Kautz
June 9, 2022

 

May 26, 2022

N.R. Davison, Child’s Play, ca. 2014, linocut.

De Capo Ad Nauseum
Poem on the Texas Shooting

A month ago, I wrote a poem.
Sorting out my grief
Violence and killings weighing heavy
In a world with too little light.
 
I processed unbelief:
So many gone so fast.
A world where 15 minutes of fame
Sometimes comes after your last breath.
 
And then my life went on.
The usual work, family and stress.
No time for writing poems,
Just a few odd prayers for peace.
 
So I sit down to write:
A writer has to– it has been too long.
I pause for inspiration, scan the news and then stop short.
No need to write,  I said it all last month.
 
Just hit repeat: how many copies shall I print?
 
Melanie Kyer
November, 2017
 
Author’s note: This poem was written in November, 2017, just after the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. One month earlier, we mourned the shooting in Las Vegas. 

 

May 13, 2022

My Grandmother’s Table

The occasions
were silky and ribboned
like gifts—
platters and people
draping the dining room
in holiday flourish—
the silver
of my nostalgia.

But the texture
of my childhood
emerged from the grain
of four simple chairs
around Mama’s kitchen table.
It was there I was nourished;
it was there I was fed.

When you grow up Italian,
love is measured in meatballs.

Love was the baked eggplant
stretched to share,
enough
even after guests stopped by,
sitting on the piano bench
folding their legs like sheet music
in order to fit.
We always left full.

It was like the story of loaves and fishes.
Which makes me wonder
if that miracle was really about the food.

I know now that it was. And also, it wasn’t.

Because at Mama’s table, love was the pot of jambot
but it was also the play grimaces
my grandfather made to me
while eating his least favorite dish.
Nourishment came from being together
at one table
fed by ladles of belonging.
I’m pretty sure that’s where all miracles begin.

I wish I could tell my grandparents
what sitting at their table meant to me.
That I never take for granted
what it means to feel welcome.
How they showed me
there is always room, and there is always enough.
That I am grateful, every day
for the meatballs.

Kathyn Yingst

 

April 29, 2022

Images: Melanie Kyer

Easter….Unfinished. 

Ukraine has been on my mind all through Lent this year, so I decided to bake a traditional Ukrainian “paska” bread for Easter. As I kneaded the dough and shaped the braids and cross for the top, I prayed for peace. I brushed it with egg wash and put it in the oven Easter morning. When I pulled it out, it looked beautiful. I posted photos and got lots of “likes.”

But that shiny surface hid an embarrassing secret, the fear of anyone who’s watched “The Great British Baking Show”:  a lump inside the very center was raw. I’d never baked such a large loaf before, and since it had chilled in the fridge overnight, it needed longer to bake than I’d given it. Explanations aside, the fact was: the loaf looked lovely outside and was imperfect inside.

Isn’t that true for so many of us? We can show up for Easter in brand new dresses, post perfect photos of our families, but under the surface things may not be what they seem. 

A friend used to have a little wall hanging in her house that read “Be Patient: God isn’t finished with me yet,” and it occurs to me that even Jesus said something like that after the resurrection when Mary saw Jesus and ran to him, amazed:

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

There’s a reason Eastertide lasts 50 days: the joy of Jesus’ resurrection is just the beginning:  we still have a lot of Easter work in front of us. We may look shiny and impressive on the outside, but inside…well, we might just have a doughy middle. (And so might those people you see in their flashy Instagram photos). Be patient and keep working this Eastertide. God isn’t finished with any of us, yet.

Melanie Kyer

 

April 14, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Life, death.  Hope, grief.

This year the Reflections group struggled with how to deal with Lent, trying to decide whether it was more important to acknowledge and give space to people’s fears and uncertainties over an ongoing pandemic and a new and terrifying war or to offer hope and a ray of light.

It turns out we can do both, and we should do both.

Life, death.  Hope, grief.

It’s not really a choice.  Life, death, hope and grief are always part of our lives in this world and it does our experience a disservice to try and separate or artificially confine them.

We mark Lent on our calendars, starting with Ash Wednesday and counting 40 days. We confine Christ’s passion to a week – or avoid thinking about it at all so we can put on new clothes and celebrate Easter Sunday surrounded by flowers and music. And yet the Lenten invitation to contemplate and join Christ’s journey is always open to us, and even if we lose focus throughout the year, we pick up that road at different times in our lives.  When we look unflinchingly at Christ’s humanity, suffering and sacrifice for us we begin to truly grasp Easter.

As we approach Holy Week and Easter it’s important to remember that unlike those first followers of Jesus, we have never known the crucifixion without the resurrection.  The two are bound together for us, even sharing the same sentence of the Nicene Creed.  “…he suffered death and was buried, and rose again…”   Death, grief, life and hope, separated by no more than a comma.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

Death and life. Grief and hope.

Barbara Ryther 

 

March 31, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

Let there be Dragons

When I was a child, Lent was a time of discipline.
I usually gave up one of my favorite things- chocolate.
I thought a lot about not being the perfect Christian.
The consequences could be dreadful.
I feared I would go to Hell if I sinned
Or spend endless time in Purgatory
Surrounded by evil creatures I called dragons.

The dragons were more powerful at night
Sometimes I felt them peering at me from
The edge of the woods around dusk.
Thoughts I was able to control during the day
Crept into my mind as darkness fell.
There was anxiety and the uncertainty of not knowing
Where life would lead me next.

Now, over half a century later, dragons are still at work.
Life is still beyond our control. Evil still exists.
Shattered families, bombed out buildings and mass burial
sites along the sides of roads are branded in our brains.
This year I choose not to give up something I wish for.
Instead, my heart tells me to give to others what they need
to survive and regain hope. My gift of choice is prayer.

For those who are hungry, I pray for a plentiful supply of food.
For those who are suffering grief from tragedy and loss, I pray for peace.
For those who are so weary they can barely make it through the day,
I pray for rest. I pray for God’s grace and for our comfort in knowing he is always with us.

Let there be dragons. Together, we will overcome.

Nina Bisognani

 

March 18

Image: Frank DeSarro

Burnt on my Soul

I am twelve and a night owl.
My sisters are asleep, my father is at work.
I hear the murmur of voices below and know my mother is watching TV.
I creep downstairs.
“Go back to bed Barbara. This is not something you should watch.”
She sees my face, and, knowing I am endlessly curious, invites me to join her.
On the screen are piles of dead bodies.
“What is it?” I ask.
“A concentration camp called Auschwitz.”
I don’t understand, but the image is burnt onto my soul.
 
I am 15, standing in the basement of our old farmhouse.
The walls are thick stones, and there is a coal cellar.
It is so dark and dank it scares me.
But now I stand in the coal cellar with a different kind of fear.
On the news Khrushchev and Kennedy are playing a game of chicken I don’t understand. 
“Can we turn the coal cellar into a bomb shelter?” I ask.
“If they drop bombs on Pittsburgh you don’t want to survive.” 
My dad’s harsh words are burnt onto my soul.
 
I am 22, a nurse in Vietnam. 
I am straddling the body of a soldier younger than I, 
Trying to find a femoral artery so I can draw blood to measure its oxygen content. 
He doesn’t respond. He will probably die. 
The memory is burnt onto my soul.
 
Now I am 75. A news-junky. 
I flip from channel to channel. 
The pictures are all the same. 
Of burning buildings, of terrified people, searching for safety.  
One more reminder of war burning onto my soul.


Barbara Kautz
March 6, 2022

March 4, 2022

Prayer for Ukraine

You gather the children

taking bits of food
and blankets,
having to choose within minutes
what you will carry
and by default
all that you will lose.
For some
no exodus will come.

Kyrie eleison.

You stand
armed with plowshares
with grit
facing the metal legion
that looms.
The growling tanks
meet the blue flame
of your resolve.
Your courage
will not be extinguished.

Ukrayina, Ukrayina
we cry out your name
in hope, in solidarity.
You remind us
what brotherhood is.

That what is holy
what is beautiful
will yet rise,
even if it requires
rolling a stone
from the tomb.

Kathryn Yingst
03.02.2022

February 18, 2022

Image: Melanie Kyer

Putting the broken back together: Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Our picture of what Christmas would be like this year was broken when our son tested positive for Covid-19 and we had to stay home. We are blessed that it was a mild case, and despite the disappointment of a different kind of holiday, we have enjoyed the simple refreshment of being together with no obligations. I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in many years– a “broken picture” of a different kind. I used to love doing them as a child with my family in the cool basement when the summers got too hot to work in the garden. Later on I saw them as a waste of time– what did you have to show for it in the end? I always had more important things to do! But now a few weeks later, when snow days are called and I look out at our long winter, I pause in the stillness and realize there is real peace in putting something broken back together. There is an inordinate sense of accomplishment in finally finding a piece that fits–in having control even if it’s just over a small bit of cardboard. Here are a few other lessons I have learned from the jigsaw puzzle…

1)  Start with the frame. You may have no idea what is going to fill it, but it helps to hold things together.

2)  Some people working on the puzzle will line everything up by shape, and some will just randomly scan pieces to find one that works. Either way, the puzzle will eventually get done.

3)  Sometimes you have to step away from things for a while – and when you come back with a new perspective, you wonder why you had so much trouble making things fit.

4a)  When you’re looking for that one elusive piece, you may try a piece over and over again, thinking it will work. If it is the wrong piece it is never going to fit.

4b)  Sometimes the perfect piece is the one you never thought was going to work.

5) Every piece is different: they’re all different colors and shapes, some have a fat foot, some have two heads…but if you’re missing any one of them, the whole picture will be incomplete.

Melanie Kyer

February 4, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

The first time I saw this little cairn on one of my walks I was surprised that such a random and precarious collection of rocks could stay safely perched on a sloping boulder, and yet week after week it was still there. As my surprise changed to amazement I decided to take a closer look, and discovered that what had seemed to be random and precarious was in fact a carefully placed arrangement of rocks of different shapes and compositions piled on each other in a deliberate way so that each one provided the correct amount of support and counterbalance to the others.  It was in fact a community…one body made up of different but essential parts.  The unique shapes and angles of each individual rock were not a danger, but an assurance of stability and strength.  Every time I see it now I think of a community built on a rock, reaching to heaven.

– Barbara Ryther

 

January 20, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

Scents and Memories 

With the holidays a recent memory,
the scent of cookies baking in the kitchen
still lingers in my mind.
But there are other scents that remain
with me as well. 

One of the most memorable of these is the scent of
Old Spice, my father’s shaving lotion.

I always associated that strong, clean scent
with my dad as he shaved each morning
before leaving the house for work.

On Father’s Day, I often gave him 
Old Spice products as gifts.  Many years later
when Dad moved to a nursing home,
I made sure he brought his Old Spice. 

Toward the end of his life Dad sometimes slept for long periods of time.
Would he ever awaken? I often wondered.

Then the night came when he lost consciousness entirely.
His nurse called me early on Valentine’s Day of 2011.
 “Come quickly,” she told me.

Though I arrived at the nursing home minutes later 
to hold his hand, he was already beyond my earthly reach.
 
The person I knew and loved had left on a new journey.
He was still warm. His beautiful blue eyes were closed. And he smelled wonderful.
One of the nurses had splashed him with Old Spice aftershave 
the night before he died.

I kissed him on the forehead and prayed that he was at peace, trying not to cry.
Deep in my heart, I knew God would take care of him.

That morning I brought Dad’s small bottle of Old Spice home with me
and tucked it away safely in my medicine cabinet.
Eleven years later I still open the bottle on occasion to smell the memory
of his presence.

Nina Bisognani