tips at the six-month mark

Today marks six months since I began writing tips for these days. What a wild six months it’s been. Thank you for reading these words.

September 8, 2020

You need more nourishment than you think. Labor Day crept up on me. Usually we travel to Kansas City, but since that wasn’t happening, I just forgot it was a thing. Until last week when Patrick mentioned that he’d have the day off. I figured I’d still get a couple of hours of work in because I could and why not? But as Friday continued, I realized that my work is actually in a good spot; I could afford a long weekend. Maybe it would even be good for me. I could honor my labor by enjoying my rest. Our weekends are usually pretty relaxed at Thornphy Manor. There is reading and tea, quiet and television, good cooking and maybe a walk. Definitely a nap. We run errands and clean the house a bit; sometimes we even do yard work. Truly, we are fortunate. But yesterday was pure gift. The cooler weather inspired coziness. It was a bonus day of morning reading and tea. I made puff pastry and picked up a quilt that has been waiting for precisely this weather. Perhaps we spent more time watching television than we should have, but who’s keeping track? We also ate good food, nourishing food, fall food. I didn’t realize how much I needed that extra day of rest. Today I have felt restored and refreshed. My life isn’t hard, I know. But we’re all doing some heavy lifting these days. Certainly mentally and emotionally, if not physically—though, I would argue, quarantine takes a physical toll. We need more nourishment, more sustenance than we think. This pandemic, these politics, this day and age—it drains and exhausts and maddens. While our normal coping mechanisms can work quite well, they are also working overtime. We are like sponges, soaking up all the stress and insanity of these days. Remember to wring it out, to find the good and caring and loving and healthy to soak up too. You will feel so much better for it.

September 9, 2020

Hold and be held. When Ryan died, Patrick was the one who told me. He drove to my work, but I wasn’t in my office because I was across campus at a meeting. He found a coworker friend and told her. Together, they came to get me and tell me some of the worst news I could be told. Again. It had happened again. Another suicide. Another uncle. Another grief. I collapsed onto the floor. They knelt with me. They held me. After a while, they bundled me off the floor and into the car and back to home. I hate that that moment exists in their lives. I am so grateful their holding exists in mine. This holding was very literal; it isn’t always so. When we talk about praying for or thinking of someone who is struggling, we often say we “hold them in prayer” or “hold them in our thoughts.” There is a tenderness with this holding, an intimacy. For the one being held, it involves vulnerability, trust, hope. Being held means you can share what burdens you. Maybe you don’t express precisely what needs to be held, but you let others know the holding is needed. Being held is grace. For the one who holds, it is holy work. It involves compassion, selflessness, attention. Holding means you grant space and energy to what burdens another. You honor the story, honor the struggle. You do not fix it, because often you can’t. But you give it room, let what needs to be held breathe a bit, let the one burdened unfurl into shared burden. Holding is grace. Our holding and being held are heightened this year. That happens in grieving times. This is a grieving time. Let yourself be held. Give thanks for the holders. Let yourself hold others. Give thanks for the ability to hold. This space of being held and holding is sacred. Challenging, but sacred.

September 10, 2020

Release. Of course, thinking about holding leads to thinking about letting go. I am not a “Let go and let God” person. That is another platitude to which I say, “Bullshit.” Even if you believe that we are created by God, which I do, then you recognize that we, as humans created in God’s image and likeness, have agency. We are able to act. Letting go and letting God removes our agency. It removes our ability to do and think. It is a resignation. A throwing up of our hands and denying responsibility. That is not why we were created. And that is not the release I mean. As 2020 continues its march, we are reminded over and over again of what is essential: people, health, justice, earth. We are looking at those around us with fresh eyes, understanding who they are and who we are in relationship with them. We are considering what it means to be healthy and to give care to those who need it. We are reckoning with justice and what a lack of it has done to our communities, to the bodies and spirits of people of color, to the hearts and minds of white people. We are seeing a ravaged earth: floods and fires that seem biblical, apocalyptic, terrifying. Our attention is being brought to what matters. Women often talk about the freedom that arrives when they grow older. Each decade involves a letting go of caring what others think, of trying to fit a certain jean size, of bending oneself to meet expectations that curtail us. You know these women. They might have wild hair; their eyes sparkle; their clothes flow. They are comfortable in their bodies and free with laughter and curse words. They do what makes their spirits sing, and they listen to the Spirit to move them. I want to be these women. As this year strips away so much, it is also an invitation to let go of what we don’t need to carry anymore: unrealistic expectations, guilt, shame. Maybe even fear. If we let go of these things, what might we be able to carry? Or, perhaps, where might we fly?

September 11, 2020

Attend to what you remember. I was a senior in high school on September 11, 2001. I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were. (New York has never been high on my list of places to visit or know much about. It just seems too big and overwhelming.) I didn’t get it. Cell phones weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are now, and the ones we had weren’t smart; none of us had laptops connected to wifi. The information we received was patchy. The school administration tried to keep us away from televisions. Our Spanish teacher, who was on the North Campus, across the street from the main building, turned on the television when we got to class because she thought we needed to see what was happening. We did. It was bad. So much changed on September 11, 2001. We became a nation afraid. We became protective, nativist, isolationist. Not always and not everyone. But when you consider what 9/11 did to our psyches, Trump makes a lot of sense as a response. People often speak of 9/11 with reverence. I understand. The death and destruction were overwhelming: New York, a field in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon. The fallout has been overwhelming too: lives lost in wars and continued conflict, the health problems that plague first responders and those who were at the crash sites, the mental and emotional trauma that persists. But there is a very dark side to 9/11 that I think frames the narrative of this national holy day. It is one of racism, fear, American exceptionalism, and posturing. When we “remember” on 9/11, so often we cloak ourselves in the flag and think of the destruction that took place on American soil. We remember American lives lost, and we grieve them, as we should. But that is not all today represents. We are facing our demons in 2020, and maybe we need to face the ones created and augmented on September 11, 2001. Did we become afraid of Muslims? Do we assume all Middle Easterners are out to get us? Have we grown complacent about the wars being waged in the name of “freedom” and “democracy,” ignoring the fact that we’ve moved the place of terror from US soil to Afghan and Iraqi soil? Is it possible for us to take responsibility for how other countries view us rather than assuming they’re just not good enough? Are we open to learning from rather than shutting down what can be offered from the Other? Can we honor those who died while also standing firmly against the ugliness that came forward as a response to tragedy? Is it possible to bring peace and forgiveness to this day, to this remembering? September 11 created a gaping wound in the American landscape. We need to heal it. We won’t do so through patriotism. We’ll do so by looking at all the facets of this tragedy and reckoning with who we have become as a result of it.

September 15, 2020

Look closely. Hanging on the wall above my desk, off to the side, is my mom’s old darkroom easel. Back in the day, the easel was the thing that held the paper under the enlarger lens. The light from the enlarger exposed the paper and, by putting the paper through various chemicals, the image would emerge. This easel, on the side that I have facing out, has two size options: 2×3 inches and 3×4.5 inches. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about having a one-inch frame on her desk. There’s nothing in the frame: no picture or little quote. It’s empty. It sits there to remind her to focus in, to get close. She uses it to inspire detail in her writing. I don’t have a one-inch frame. I have mom’s easel. It serves a similar purpose, but it does more than that. It reminds me of what creation is. Mom had a darkroom for most of my growing-up years. It was sacred space. I’d often join her while she developed film or made prints. I’d rock the trays with chemicals once she’d put the exposed paper in. I’d never, ever enter or leave without letting her know, lest a stray beam of light sneak in and ruin a print or box of paper. I learned about Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seeger, Les Miserables, and Melissa Etheridge in the darkroom. We talked about my dad and her siblings. Sharing that space with her, I now know, was thin space: I got to see her create. Photographers see the world in images. I see it in words. Yes, I see the images, but I am often working out how to describe it, how it affects me, what it means in language. My mom doesn’t do that as much. She sees the light, the numbers, the relationships between objects. She’s framing images constantly. It’s a very different way to interact with the world. In some ways, I think it’s more intimate. It breaks things down. Even someone like Ansel Adams: I have no doubt that he was very aware of how every element in a sweeping landscape worked together. I digress. The darkroom was where mom’s work went from her head to the world. It’s where I was able to see what she saw. And she sees things closely. Murphys are detail oriented; we express it in different ways, but we each attend to the little things that make a difference. Our world is overwhelmingly big these days. The problems are significant and scary. We waffle between hopefulness and despair a lot. This is going to continue, at least for a few more weeks. God willing, it’ll settle down on January 20, 2021. But for now, things feel big. That’s when looking closely helps. I can’t solve climate change; I can be aware of my own consumption. I can’t fix racism; I can root it out of my head and heart and speak out when I see injustice. I can’t fix this virus; I can wash my hands and wear a mask. I can’t fix Donald Trump and the poison he has unleashed; I can vote and counteract his poison with goodness in the face of hatred. Look closely at what you’re developing. This is a creation time; it is thin space. We don’t have to create on a giant canvas. It can be enough to fill a 2×3-inch frame.

September 16, 2020

Show up. This tip has three parts. First, we need to be showing up for ourselves. The self-care and wellness industry like to say how this should look: bubble baths, gorgeous yoga sessions, painted nails, all the fancy coffee drinks, so much pampering. Those things might work for you. But showing up for ourselves also means doing the work. Even though my personal writing has been whiny of late, I keep showing up every morning to put pen to paper. Eventually something good will come of it. Or not. But I’m showing up because if I’m whiny there, I’m less inclined to be whiny to Patrick or my friends. I’m showing up there because I know it’s developing muscles that need developing: self-reflection, challenge, critiquing the world, self-kindness, and, at the most basic level, language play. Giving up on the writing time would be a way of giving up on myself, on a part of myself that I have come to love very much. I have to show up for that. Second, we need to show up for each other. We can’t be all things to all people. I would love to go out of my way for everyone, to call all the people on my list, to drop off cookies or love notes. I can’t. I’m an introvert and the idea of that makes me want to curl up in a ball and sleep for hours. But I can show up for a few people. I can text when someone crosses my mind. I can try, when people are struggling, to reach out. Showing up for others means putting your energy where you know it’s needed. Right now it’s needed in a lot of places, so it also means being aware of your energy, what’s zapping it, what’s restoring it, and what’s wasting it. It’s possible you’ll need to put up boundaries; it’s also possible you need to take some boundaries down. Third, notice who’s showing up for you. Acknowledge it. One of the things my family has marveled at over the years is how the people you expect to show up in a moment of crisis aren’t necessarily the ones who do. Maybe they just want you to be okay, better, how you were. They’re too close to see what’s truly needed. It’s heartbreaking when this happens and piles grief upon grief. But then there’s that random person who comes out from the periphery to give you precisely what you need when you need it. That showing up is a breath of fresh air, a lifeline, a grace. We are, this year, showing up in all these ways; and others are meeting us in this showing. These spaces of encounter are creating something new, something healing. We just have to be present to it.

September 17, 2020

Mind the gap. There’s a part in To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus Finch explains to his daughter, Scout, that understanding others requires going outside of oneself. “You never really understand a person,” Atticus says, “until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” We often hear this stated as “walking in someone else’s shoes.” I think one of the difficulties in conversations about race is that we can never know what it’s truly like to wear someone else’s skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be a Black or Brown person. I don’t know what it’s like to be Asian or Native American or Hispanic. I don’t get looked at suspiciously when I’m shopping, and I’ve been pulled over once for speeding. My car tags are expired. I keep forgetting that. I’ve been driving with expired tags since May. I’ve driven past cops. Not once have I been stopped. (Yes, mom, I’ll get this dealt with.) I don’t even think about it because I’m not driving a lot, and I don’t have to think about it because my skin color protects me. This is privilege. A few weeks ago I ordered a Black Lives Matter sweatshirt. It took a while to get here, but it’s here, and I love it. Today was cool enough to wear it, and I ran errands. I was very aware, as I traveled about my reddish town, that I was wearing what would be considered by some to be a provocative sweatshirt. I expected comments. I expected looks. I got nothing. Proud as I am of this sweatshirt, much as I support Black Lives Matter and believe that Black lives do, indeed, matter, I was self-conscious. And in that self-consciousness, awareness of my privilege rose. I get to take this sweatshirt off. It’s not my skin; it’s a thing I’m wearing. And for about an hour today I considered how people might respond to a thing I wore. I’m not stupid enough to think this gives me even a shred of the experience of walking through this country with Black skin. It doesn’t. If anything, it alerted me to how very little I know about other people’s experiences in their skin. We need to stretch our consideration muscles, to think about what it might be like to be another person with different experiences and traumas, joys and passions. This is empathy. But we also need to see that there’s a gap between how we do that considering and what the reality is. There is space between our thinking and our being. For some of us, that space is where we acknowledge our privilege, where we allow humility into our relationships. For others, that gap is a chasm filled with fear and prejudice. Nudging ourselves into that gap, seeing if we feel fear or humility, allowing it to grow our awareness instead of shrinking it—this is the hard work we are called to right now.

September 18, 2020

Admire your friends. In recent years, we’ve focused a lot on ruptured relationships. People support politicians we find unsupportable. They back policies we find morally repugnant. We approach family and friends, not to mention strangers, with wariness. We are renegotiating boundaries. There is much to grieve about the relationships that have fallen apart or become strained. But I think that has also opened space for new relationships and admirations. Over the years I have seen friends and acquaintances from high school blossom into incredible women. That sounds so cliche and saccharine, I know. But I am in awe of the way they work for justice, speak their truths, protest, advocate for issues dear to them, step into the fray, raise their kids to be good humans, and live joyously. It’s not easy, I know, and they don’t make it look easy. They make it look doable. And that’s encouraging. I am also amazed by my friends who are teachers these days. So much has been heaped on their plates. And rather than scrape them off into the trash or just drop the damn things on the floor, these friends have taken the time to assess the situation, grapple with what’s going on, and create a (flexible) plan for moving forward. They are struggling, but they are doing. I am in awe. We can become complacent about the people we surround ourselves with. They are just part of the woodwork. It’s good to step back every so often and look at your friends anew, to see who they are in their own right, not just in your own eyes. See the work they’re doing, the people they’re trying to become, and be amazed by that process. People—even the ones near and dear to us—are truly amazing.

September 19, 2020

Attend to the flame. I have seen so much despair since the announcement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last night. I’ve felt some of it too. This is not good. Trump will rush a nomination. McConnell will ram it through the Senate. I don’t deny that this is bad. But here’s what else I know: McConnell, Trump, and their enablers are vampires who feed on our despair, fear, and hopelessness. Let’s starve them by joyously celebrating the legacy of an incredible woman. Let’s deny them the meal they so desperately want by committing ourselves to continue her fights. Do not let this moment be about these men. Let this be about a woman of strength, integrity, and justice. Yes, we need to keep our eyes on the shenanigans these guys are going to play. I get that. But by focusing on how shitty they are, we’re losing sight of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy and what she gave to us. A friend shared that her “hope is a guttering flame.” I understand that. We all have moments when our lights flicker. So know this, if your light is not as strong as it usually is, that’s okay. Others are holding the flames. When your flame is steady again, you can hold it for someone else. That’s how we do this. Take this literally: Light a candle. Watch the flame. See it flicker and steady. Over and over again. Take heart. As I said to this friend, if you can’t see the flame inside yourself, look for it outside until you find it again. Revel in the life of a good woman. She deserves that.

September 21, 2020

Consider the waffling. When I was in high school, we analyzed a poem by Thomas Lux called “Refrigerator, 1957.” It has since been one of my favorite poems. I love the vividness of it. I love the challenge of it. The poem’s narrator speaks about a jar of maraschino cherries kept in the fridge but never used. He muses about these cherries, the brightest and most enticing thing in the refrigerator. No one eats them; they’re never used. But the jar is always there. The narrator contemplates why he never ate one, and at the end of the poem, he admits, “because you do not eat that which rips your heart with joy.” I struggle with that line, with that mentality. And yet, I understand it. Can reality ever be as good as the ideal we construct? He knew the sweetness of those cherries without eating them; they couldn’t ever match his imagination. This morning I did the new yoga class offered by Clara. To start, she recites a poem by John O’Donohue, “A Morning Offering.” It’s a prayer of awakening and arising. It is a call to embrace the new day and be awed by it. He concludes this way: “May I have the courage today to live the life that I would love, to postpone my dream no longer but do at last what I came here for and waste my heart on fear no more.” That has become, in many ways, my prayer this year. It just wasn’t quite articulated until I heard these lines. Or, rather, it was articulated by Mary Oliver from her poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Truth to tell, I waffle between these poems. The life I want as a writer seems so glorious, so lovely, so unattainable. And yet, I work to create it daily. It is, at once, the maraschino cherry that could rip my heart with joy—best avoided because not perfect—and the thing I came here for, the life I love. We, women particularly, receive so many messages about how to lean in! Create the life you want! Boss bitch! Do it all! Do only what matters to you! But, truth to tell, we’re all wavering between avoiding ripping our hearts with joy by doing what we love and, well, doing what we love. It isn’t necessarily one or the other. Maybe it depends on the day. Maybe it depends on whether we can get that jar of cherries opened in the first place.

September 22, 2020

Look up. I look down a lot. There are dog toys and shoes and things about. Outside, there are sticks, more dog toys, and puppy-dug holes. All sorts of things can trip one up. Add to this the natural position of hunching over a phone or laptop or notebook. But as summer turns to fall, I am reminded of the importance of looking up. I seem to have come full circle over the years. I left Kansas City loving autumn; it was my favorite season. When I moved to Minnesota, fall meant that winter was close behind, which meant months of snow and cold. Spring became my favorite season. But I have returned to loving fall. It reminds me to slow down, to relish the green of summer, to give thanks for what has been and what will be. I love the warming foods of fall, the comfort of a hot cup of tea, wooly socks that warm the toes. I love the crisp smell of the air as the temperatures cool. As I’ve waited for the trees to change colors, I’ve been looking up a lot. Looking out. Rather than run up the stairs and past the window on the landing, I pause for a second to take in the gloriousness that is the orange tree in a neighbor’s yard. I’m keeping an eye on the heart-shaped tree down the street that always turns a stunning shade of red. I’m watching the shades of blue in the sky, hazy from wildfire smoke aloft. I’m noticing that the sun has shifted position, and the light hits my desk differently now than it did just a few weeks ago. The lushness of summer is giving way to the sparseness of winter, but we’re given these weeks of transition, of moving through the letting go. Sometimes change is instant, and maybe it’s having experienced such abrupt and breathtaking shifts that has made me more aware of the grace in slow change. We have become used to instant gratification: I want this, so I order it, and it’s here the next day; I have a question, so I pull out my phone, and the answer is found immediately. We don’t always sit comfortably in the waiting time. Autumn reminds us to sit still and see the beauty in slow transformation, in prolonged gratification.

September 23, 2020

Attempt compassionate gazing. I failed at this today. I’ve been failing at this a lot of days when I leave our house. People are just so trying right now. It was my last stop. I’d been to the co-op, Costco, another store to grab lunch, and was just getting a Sprite at the gas station. An older man walked in without a mask. He cut in front of me in line. Okay, we were both walking up to the line and he got there first. (See, failing.) He was mouth breathing. And obviously couldn’t see very well. He got very close, with all his mouth-breathing breathiness, to the credit card thing. All the breathing on all the things! I scowled. I grumbled. I rolled my eyes. Perhaps I huffed. I paid for my Sprite once he left (with the exact change because I sure wasn’t going to touch that keypad). And I murmured my way to my car and home and away from people. Ugh. People. When I was in college one of the Benedictine sisters told me about compassionate gazing. What I recall of her explanation is that it’s to see with kindness, to look at others gently. I look at others with a great deal of wariness right now. Maybe sometimes with open hostility. Why are you getting so close? Do you know that your nose is supposed to go inside the mask? Are you aware that your bandana is not helpful? Can you just stop touching everything? No, taking your mask down to talk to the clerk is not helpful! None of this is compassionate. All of it is based in judgment. And part of me thinks that’s just fine for this day and age. Except that’s not true. Habits of thought build, and if I’m allowing wariness and hostility into my thoughts, there’s no way that doesn’t make an impact. Benedictines have two things to offer when it comes to compassionate gazing. First, they are big on hospitality. In his Rule, St. Benedict says that we are to welcome the stranger as Christ. We are to open the door to others, not close it. We feed, clothe, shelter, welcome. Hospitality looks different these days. It is no longer about opening our homes for dinner parties. We’re less inclined to interact with strangers. Dropping by for a beer or a cup of tea isn’t the easy delight it used to be. Second, Benedict was quite emphatic about the dangers of murmuring: when community members murmur, it leads to a toxic communal life. We are murmuring a lot about people: how they act, what politicians they support, how they’re failing. Maybe what’s needed is compassionate looking. Instead of murmuring, maybe we extend the hospitality of gentleness and compassion. Instead of huffing, maybe we keep our distance while considering all the factors that might be at play in a person’s noncompliance. Not just stubbornness but illness, loneliness, plain ignorance. I can’t guarantee I’ll do much better next time I’m in public. But maybe writing about it will allow compassionate gazing to come to mind before I start the grumbling instead of after.

September 24, 2020

Behold the waves. I grew up in Kansas City. I live in Minnesota. My experiences with oceans are limited. I am awed by them, though. Standing on the shore as waves roll in, watching the way the sand moves and adjusts, seeing what’s left behind as the water rolls back out. Waves are relentless. Last year when we went to Ireland, we stopped at a place where the Atlantic waves were overwhelming. Big. Crashing. They were intimidating and all-consuming. It made me wonder why people would ever get in boats and fish. The water roiled. I was both drawn to and horrified by these waves. I have not read a lot about the Breonna Taylor decision. I know that they’re charging an officer for endangering neighbors. Taylor is not receiving justice. I am mad. I am tired of the injustice. I am tired for my Black friends who are exhausted. I am ready for this shit to end. I am reminded of waves. This year feels like we’re standing in the midst of an unrelenting barrage of waves. Over and over again the current is trying to pull us under. But there are other waves too, and those are the ones we need to see right now. I looked at the news before bed, something I try not to do much of. But the Guardian had a live feed of protests that were happening across this nation in honor of Taylor. People standing up to say that this is not right. This is exhausting. This is not acceptable. They were chanting her name. This too is a wave. These protests are waves that are as unrelenting as Trump’s attempted attacks on democracy, decency, and humanity. It’s tempting to look only at the waves that destroy or exhaust. But there are other waves here too: we’re seeing people take to the streets in droves to protest; voter registration efforts are booming; there are lines for early voting; Democrats raised huge amounts of money after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death; women continue to speak out against harassment, assault, rape, even when they know they will be ostracized or worse; white people who have coasted through life believing we aren’t racist are seeing ways we prop up racist systems, and we’re educating ourselves to change that; businesses and sports teams are taking stances against racism, voter suppression, and police brutality. The tide does turn. For every wave of horror from this administration, there’s another that restores my hope in our country, our humanity. Trump isn’t the only one making waves. We are too. And they’re big ones. Behold their power.

September 25, 2020

Keep vigil. Tomorrow marks a milestone for these tips: I wrote the first one six months ago. We’ve been through a lot since then. As I hit this marker, I’m thinking about what these daily writings have been. As the daughter of a photographer, I often lean toward photographic metaphors. These tips are snapshots of what our world has experienced this year: the turmoil, despair, hope, joy, fear, resetting. The tips became my way of remembering, of reflecting, of engaging. They are a wrestling with the world as we know it now; there is blessing here too. They have also been my way of keeping vigil. One of the most beautiful things I know of the Benedictine community I was close to in college is the way they sit with dying sisters. When one of the women is close to death, the other sisters sit with her; they take turns keeping vigil. They accompany her as she journeys from this world to the next. The sisters live in community and die in community. I love this. At the risk of sounding dramatic, our world has been going through a dying process. Maybe it has always been thus. St. Paul expected the Second Coming any day. We still read his letters in church and prayer two thousand years later. The world keeps turning. But in 2020, we are reckoning in new ways with the fact that what was no longer is. The effects of climate change make this very evident. That we had to rethink our ways of being in and moving about the world because of a virus make this very evident. There are times, I admit, when I wonder what the point of being a writer, an artist, is when the end of the world is nigh. If it’s all going to burn, why write it down? The fact that I turned to words in this year of chaos tells me why: because we need vigil keepers. We have been keeping vigil in various ways this year. We are vigilant as we wash hands, wear masks, wipe down surfaces, keep distance. We are vigilant as we keep our eyes on cops who keep killing Black people and getting away with it. We are vigilant as we take to the streets or put up signs or proclaim on social media that justice needs doing. We are vigilant as we research politicians and make decisions about whom we will vote for. We are vigilant as we mourn the losses of giants like John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As tiring as this vigilance can be, it is the way we journey together. It is our being in community. I am so grateful you have let me write for and with you. There will be more. But today I want to honor the vigils we have been keeping. And will continue to keep.

tips, round 8

August 17, 2020

Imagine. A few years ago, one of my friends gave birth to twin girls who died within days of their birthing. Laura wrote about the process of knowing this pregnancy had turned from full of promise to full of grief. She wrote powerfully and strongly and unapologetically. She let us in on her grieving, and I think that’s one of the hardest and most beautiful gifts anyone can give: to let you see them at their worst so you know the process is both dreadful and incredible. That it is survivable. In one of her posts on the loss of her daughters, Laura wrote about how people often say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” She pointed out something that has stayed with me these years: the person saying this can imagine. That’s all they can do. They can’t feel it or know it or live it. They can imagine it. And while imagining can’t touch the pain, it is the door to empathy. I have been very deliberate about what my imagination can and cannot do since I read her post. And I find myself imagining a lot this year. I imagine the pain of people separated as loved ones go to the hospital without assurances that they’ll return home or be able to say goodbye. I imagine the disappointment of plans cancelled, whether they’re weddings or birthday celebrations or simply the usual getting together that makes us human. I imagine the feeling of brokenness that people who desperately want to go to church are feeling. I imagine the confusion that children feel as they watch the adults in their worlds try to figure out what to do with them and how to best protect and educate them. I imagine the fear that parents are feeling as they navigate home schooling or pack their kids off for first days in school buildings or send children to college miles and miles away. I imagine the worry that teachers have as they prepare to host germ-bombs all day within close proximity, attempting to keep them healthy and teach them something in the process. I imagine a lot. This imagining goes the other way too: I imagine how incredible hugs will feel when we’re comfortable giving them again. I imagine what it will be like to step foot in Ireland again. I imagine how comforting it will be to know that, should a crisis arise and you need to get somewhere, you can go without calculating the risk of transmission and days of quarantine and rations of sanitizing products. I imagine the creativity that’s being fostered as people strive to find solutions to the variety of problems we’re facing. I imagine the way children will rethink schooling and work as a result of their experiences of this pandemic. Part of me wants to shut all of this imagining off, to settle in to the numbness that 2020 desperately wants to create. But that would be to turn away from what this time is giving us: a heart open to others.

August 18, 2020

Find the sweet spot. The stretchiness of yoga is about finding the sweet spot or, as Clara Roberts Oss says, the stretch without the strain. It’s the spot where you feel the pull, the activation, the use of the muscle, but not the pain. It is, indeed, a sweet spot. And it changes day to day. The sweet spots I have now are not what they were a few weeks ago. My body has shifted in this practice. So has the sweetness. It’s hard to find sweet spots in the world these days, to be stretched beyond who we are and challenged to become more. That spot where we aren’t quite comfortable but we aren’t in pain either. That spot where growth is occurring. We are dancing or wobbling between many things. We are called to balance awareness and sanity, intelligence and humility, logic and anxiety. We know what it feels like when we’ve overdone it: exhaustion, sadness, anger, so much frustration, all the fears, a never-ending cycle of thoughts, inability to pull ourselves away from screens that simply increase negative feelings. This is not the sweet spot. We know when we’re not doing enough too: lethargy, numbness, inability to concentrate, unwillingness to engage, too much sleep, escaping into music or books or television, not reaching out to those we love. This is not the sweet spot either. No, it’s between these extremes: dancing after reading an article that enrages, knowing when to engage and when to let trolls be trolls, stepping outside to breathe fresh air, setting boundaries around when news is read or heard or watched, finding sources you trust, letting go of sources you don’t, knowing when it’s time to back away from toxic people, finding activities that make you feel empowered and strong, doing at least one thing each day that settles your soul, looking for humor and laughing hard. We can’t live in a constant state of pain; nor can we live constantly disengaged. We have to find our sweet spots—not just once, but day after day, hour after hour.

August 19, 2020

Thank your body. At thirty-six, my body doesn’t look like it did at twenty-six. It’s rounder, softer, less defined. I used to eat all the things (well, I am picky) and not care. I am more attentive to the eating and the caring now. Health matters, and what we eat very much affects how we feel. When I was twenty-six, as it happens, Shaun died. I became afraid of food. Not anorexic or bulimic, but afraid that I’d get food poisoning and die. Because that’s what anxiety does to the brain. It doesn’t be logical. I dropped fifteen pounds in a week or two because I was living on toast, bananas, and peppermint tea. It was not a healthy approach to food or the body or thoughts. It was terrifying because I knew it was wrong but still couldn’t eat. Slowly, I got through it. I am still wary of certain foods, and occasionally eating is a great act of trust. I have gotten food poisoning in the past ten years, and, surprise, I didn’t die. It’s scary to not trust the things that are supposed to fuel you. It is grace to believe that what you put in your body is good for it and sustains it. Part of me misses the lean and long body I had when I was younger, the look of that body. But I refuse to berate myself for gaining weight. I will not shame this body. At the end of most of her yoga classes, Clara closes by asking practitioners to thank themselves for taking the time to get to the mat. And then she says we should thank our bodies. It is a moment of blessing. We spend so much time wanting our bodies to be something else: skinnier, more flexible, less round, less freckled, more toned, less awkward or gangly, more able. But these bodies we have are quite incredible. When you start thanking it for what it is, you see it as stunning and miraculous. You see the ways your body moves and the strength you have and can build. Our bodies are unpredictable: they hurt sometimes or lose balance or are unable to do certain things. But they are surprising too: they heal and move gracefully (or not) and give and receive love. Our bodies have so much capacity, promise, and ability—even if they don’t look the way we think they should because of some idealized dream. The body you have is beautiful. Take some time today to stand in front of a mirror, naked or not, and thank—bless—this body.

August 20, 2020

Practice. Our dogs aren’t horrible beggars. They don’t steal food from our plates, and they’re just as likely to lay in the other room while we eat dinner as they are to watch us eat. They aren’t stupid, though, so they do tend to get underfoot when we cook. And if they hear a bag of cheese get pulled out the fridge, they appear from nowhere to make their presences known. Cully knows the difference between toast (of which I always give her a bite) and granola (which never gets shared). When they watch us cooking or stand at attention waiting for cheese, Patrick often says, “We have the most optimistic dogs in the world.” Yes, these animals of ours live in hope. It’s a daily thing they do. I am reminded by them that I have to practice who I want to be. Sometimes we slip into the laziness of thinking that because we want to be certain things—wise, kind, gentle, patient, hopeful, brave, just—we are those things in reality. But that’s not how it works. We have to practice these virtues. We don’t commit to them once and call it good. We commit to them every day, in every interaction. We practice them. Over and over again. This reminds me of something Toni Morrison wrote in her novel Paradise: “Love is divine only and difficult always. . . . It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. . . . You can only earn—by practice and careful contemplation—the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God—carefully.” I wrestle with the idea of having to “earn” God, but I completely understand the idea of “practicing” God. I think that’s what being in relationship—with others, with the self, with God—is. It is practice. It is contemplation of who we are called to be and intentionally practicing that being. There is much to be afraid of. Devolving into fear, uncertainty, hatred, anger, anxiety, and self-protection is a pattern of behavior. It too is practiced. We are not at the mercy of these negatives, despite how overwhelming they might feel at any given time. What are you practicing today? What are you brining forward in your interactions with others, with yourself, with God? Who is it you want to develop into and how do you work on being that person today?

August 24, 2020

Embrace the exhaustion. I didn’t hear about it until this morning. Another shooting of a Black man by police officers. Seven times. In the back. In front of his children. Jacob Blake is in serious condition; his children are no doubt traumatized. According to NPR, he had tried to break up a fight between two women. The Guardian gives no details of events leading up to the shooting, just that he was trying to get in his car. The car where his children were. The story is, of course, developing. But what we know now is that a Black man was shot in front of his children. Can we stop doing this? I am so tired of these stories. I am so exhausted for my Black friends who are living the reality of this fear daily. I am tired of the noise from “All Lives Matter” people when, clearly, all lives don’t matter. I am tired of antiabortion people claiming to be pro-life when this man’s life doesn’t matter one iota to them. I am tired of having to explain what dignity is. I am tired of having to tell people that guns—no matter whose hands hold them—are dangerous. I am tired of living in a country where Black men and women are shot, where Black children witness it if they aren’t shot themselves. I’m tired of carnage. This is a year of carnage. I am tired of it. But here’s the flip side of exhaustion: it tells you that you’re feeling. That you’re paying attention. That you’re not numb. Being tired is a reminder that your heart hasn’t hardened. It is a sign that you need to take care, rest, be gentle, get and give a hug or two, shed some tears, drink something soothing. These are not actions of avoidance; they are sustenance. Being tired is a result of awareness, and if we don’t sustain ourselves in the midst of it, we cannot work to make it different. The exhaustion drains. But it also lets us know we have more to give, more to do, more to become.

August 25, 2020

Put up your guard. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you have to watch what you let into your brain and body. I don’t watch movies or shows that have to do with demonic possession. I won’t watch The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. I did not like the Psych episode that was a riff on this genre. I sat through Paranormal Activity with some grad school friends, and Timothy’s laughter through it was the only thing that got me through. I think there are things we shouldn’t mess with, and demons are one of them. Call me superstitious or weirdly Catholic or whatever. Inviting evil in isn’t a good idea, even if it is just for entertainment purposes. I feel the same way about watching the Republican National Convention. We’re not watching it at our house. I’ll read about it from folks I trust, but I’m not watching clips or speeches. Given the trajectory of the Republican Party, I have a sense of what these days will be. Trump will be Trump. His enablers will be who they have been. We will be lied to, told who and what to be afraid of, and provided reasons for dismissing or devaluing other humans. I don’t need that kind of hate and fear in my head and heart. Am I burying my head in a carefully chosen sandbox? Perhaps. But I prefer to think of it in line with the monastic mothers and fathers: guarding the thoughts and the heart. You have to watch these things or they will run amok. We have to watch our thoughts, and one way to do that is to watch what we see and hear. There is so much to weary the heart these days. I don’t need to add to it by watching things that don’t feed the soul or lift the heart or challenge the brain. You can opt out. It might just be the healthiest thing you do this week.

August 26, 2020

Relax. Yep. I said it. Relax. I’ve been braced all day today. Not anxious or nervous or wired. Just braced, tensed. I’ve done a good job of not looking at my phone after 10:00 each night, and I wait until after writing, yoga, and breakfast to look at anything except weather each morning. But this morning there was a news alert about the two people shot in Kenosha during protests last night; I couldn’t not see it because it showed up on my lock screen. Maybe that’s what started the bracing. And then, even if I’m not watching the RNC, the news and social feeds are full of the RNC. And there’s a massive hurricane heading for Louisiana. And all the fires in California. So of course, I’m braced for more bad news. When you experience trauma, it becomes hard to trust goodness, happiness, relaxation. You start feeling happy at some point in the grieving process, but it’s accompanied by wariness. When I started dating Patrick, I remember telling a friend that I was so happy, but I was just waiting for it to get messed up, for the other shoe to drop. “There might not be another shoe,” she said. I needed those words. We’ve had a lot of shoes drop in 2020. The natural reaction is to remain braced against what’s coming next. It’s logical to do so. It’s instinct to do so. But constant bracing isn’t healthy, so it’s also important to lower the shoulders and take some deep breaths. To be aware of what’s happening but recognize what’s in your power to change and what isn’t. Yes, to relax.

August 27, 2020

Find your metaphor. I have been thinking a lot about quilting lately. I finished a quilt top last weekend, and I’ve started cutting pieces for another project. I have four quilts that need to be quilted (yes, I’m a procrastinator), and I’m looking forward to the cooler weather for that job. My grandmother, the one who taught me to quilt, told me once that she pieces in summer and quilts in winter. I know why: quilting isn’t cooling work. I started quilting after Shaun died. My mom came to visit, noticed I didn’t have a television and was surrounded by so much quiet, and thought perhaps the quiet wasn’t helping the anxiety. A television was purchased, but I needed/wanted something to do besides just sitting there. So the quilting habit was begun. Over the past decade, it has become my metaphor. Metaphors are comparisons; they create a framework, a symbolism, a context. They make what is abstract concrete. Quilting is very much the metaphor for my grief. It’s the cutting apart of a world once whole and the putting it together again in a new way. It’s taking different pieces of fabric, different patterns, and making something beautiful with them. And all of it is held together by threads. It’s scrappy and complicated and tedious and creative. Grief is all of those things too. The fluidity and slipperiness of grief can get very big and very overwhelming. When that happens, grabbing fabric and thread makes it manageable. There have been days I’ve felt that I’m literally stitching my world back together as I put needle through fabric. Each stitch, each block, each quilt has been a way to make sense of what has felt senseless. It might not be sensible yet, but I can wrap myself in the warmth of trying.

August 28, 2020

Wring it out. There are some twisting poses in yoga that I love. Reclined spinal twist is divine. The one where you have one leg straight, the other foot on the floor, and opposite elbow to the knee (that makes sense, right?) is lovely. I hate twisting in chair pose, but I like it in lunges. Much of what we do in a given day is forward, backward, maybe sideways. We don’t really do much twisting. Or we don’t pay attention to it, unless it makes us hurt. Twists in yoga are cleansing. They “wring out” the spine and the guts. They move you in ways you’re not quite used to, but they give you a new appreciation for “coming back to center.” My morning writing time has felt stodgy lately. It’s a thing I do, but I don’t feel like it’s really going anywhere. I keep showing up, though, and I keep putting words on the page. They might not mean much in and of themselves, but the showing up is important. It is discipline and grit and determination and gift to myself. This morning I realized that maybe I don’t need the morning journaling time to “go anywhere.” Maybe it’s like twisting: it’s wringing out my brain after a night of sleep. It’s cleansing. It’s awakening and allows me to come back to center refreshed. I think our world is wringing itself out too. As protests continue because cops keep killing Black people, as the numbers of infected and dead continue to rise, as ugliness and hatred keep surfacing—this is a twisting. It’s not pleasant; it’s uncomfortable. We want to know when we can come back to center. But there is more to be wrung out. You don’t twist one day and be done with it forever; no, the wringing is necessary almost daily. It’s how the spine and core strengthen. The more we twist, the more we breathe into this uncomfortable space, the more we breathe for those who no longer can, the more we wring out the toxicity and ugliness—the stronger we will become. I firmly believe this. Not everyone wants to twist with us; not everyone is capable. But while they stay put, we twist anyway. We show them how. Because sometimes people need to see what growing strength looks like. These days, it looks like a fist raised in protest, masks worn properly, donating money to places doing good work, supporting businesses with ideals we hold dear, saying thank you to the people doing extra cleaning work. We will get to come back to center. It’ll be a very different center from the one we left when we began this twisting.

August 31, 2020

Vocation changes. Does it feel like we are at a crossroad? Or that it’s not even that simple? Maybe that we’re in the middle of an intersection with six different street options and a few sidewalks? Throw a bus, subway, or streetcar track in for good measure. This is a time that is ripe for transformation and transition. There was a time I was going to be a Benedictine sister. It was a decision I struggled with for many years. Once I finally decided to go to the monastery, to leave the life I’d created in Minnesota, the decision suddenly became wrong. What had been right, what I had resisted but known was coming, suddenly wasn’t right anymore. There wasn’t peace in it. I knew it was wrong because of this lack of peace. Catholics grow up hearing about vocations: to married life, single life, or priesthood/religious life. These are permanent—or are believed to be so, even if reality is messy. They are big decisions, and the deciding of them can be overwhelming. But as I’ve gotten older, as I wrestled with my own life vocation, what I realized is that it isn’t just about choosing one of these options. We live vocation daily. We are called daily. For Catholics and Christians, this is a call to live the Gospel in what we do. For Jews, perhaps it is to love the Lord our G-d with heart, soul, and might each day. For atheists and agnostics, perhaps it’s a call to love others and do good because that’s what being human is. For Muslims, perhaps it is to surrender to Allah in everything. That’s the overarching call. Underneath it are little vocations. To be an artist, to care for home and children, to teach, to make food, to advocate for others, to rescue animals, to stock grocery shelves, to listen in a variety of ways. We live a plurality of vocations. I am editor and writer, daughter and wife, friend and practicer of yoga. So how does this connect to a crossroad? A vocation that applied at one time might not at another time. Or one might develop. We never really leave the crossroad. I am growing into this writer vocation. It has been dormant for a while, always a hoped-for thing, but never quite a reality. Since March, that has shifted. Partly because I’ve made time for it, but partly because the time itself became right. This era of pandemic and protest is not arid; it is not parched or lifeless. It can be rich and transformative. It can reveal more of ourselves. It can be a time of great peace. Not serenity or tranquility. I mean “peace” in terms of knowing you are where you belong or working toward creating the life you are called to. Frederick Buechner wrote that “God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That meeting place is peace. It shifts, and we must work to keep it in sight, to be aware if we are being called to shift as well.

September 1, 2020

Embrace surprise. Piggy-backing off of yesterday’s post, I think surprise is a key element of vocation. I had an acquaintance who knew I was going to join the monastery. She visited Saint John’s after I was supposed to have left and wanted to know why I was still there. “Well, it wasn’t right anymore,” I told her. “I’m as surprised as anyone.” “Ah,” she said, “That’s how you know it’s from God.” I think there was much wisdom in her observation. As someone with anxiety, I prefer what is predictable. I like control; I like knowing what’s coming. Things that are out of the ordinary are disconcerting, uncomfortable, unsettling. But God comes to us in the surprises: as a burning bush, in a whisper rather than a whirlwind, as a baby in a manger. God calls those who are least likely: the youngest son, an unwed virgin, all sorts of reluctant men and women who become prophets and disciples. We too are called to be surprised. This doesn’t have to be a God thing, though that’s the lens through which I see surprises. It can be nature doing what nature does, which still takes our breath away. It can be that thrilling of the heart and butterflies in the stomach that tells us we are on to something new and delightful, even if there’s a touch of wariness and fear mixed in. Yesterday I wrote about being at a crossroad. We think vocation is standing in that crossroad and choosing a path. One reason I struggled so greatly with “choosing” vocation was that the paths seemed irreversible; you choose one, and then all other roads close. But more often finding vocation is noticing that there’s a field of wildflowers over there that we need to go check out. If we’re not open to surprise, we never notice the wildflowers.

September 2, 2020

Acknowledge the inner crab. I ran errands yesterday. There were people out there. They bugged the hell out of me. There were people flagrantly disobeying the mask mandate by not wearing masks at all. There were others who decided that the suffocation of masks is really annoying and they didn’t need to be bothered the whole time they were in the stores, so their masks were pulled down while they breathed on all the things. Some guy on Facebook wanted “context” for why someone with a skateboard was beating up on a kid with a AR-15 who was shooting people. I shared the link to Google and suggested he find his own “context.” People were a bit much for me yesterday. So I took a nap, did some work, made a galette. I’m struggling with people. Even our friends. I love them and I miss them. But it takes me a while to settle in to being with them when we get together. (Safely, outside, distantly.) Patrick and I have our routine; my work permits me to keep people at arm’s length; I am an introvert. All of these things make the isolation of quarantining pretty simple. Yes, there is restlessness and wanderlust and annoyance. But I am quite content, on the whole, to be where I am in my very small bubble. One of my grad school professors used to talk about pious people who were jerks or didn’t care about helping their neighbors: “They think they love God because they don’t love anybody.” Those words came back to me as I was mentally preparing another Facebook retort to “context” guy while driving from one store to another. I rolled my eyes in Fr. Kevin’s heavenly direction and grumbled something about just wanting to be pissy. The paradox of this quarantine age is that we are caring for or loving others by being physically distant from them and wearing masks that hide our faces, but we are also becoming wary of, annoyed by, or judgmental toward others when they do not act the way we think they should. Our care and our critique are both heightened. No wonder we’re crabby. We have expectations and they are so very rarely met these days. But these people who are around us, driving us batty, they’re doing the best they can. Mostly. Some of them aren’t, and it’s best to just leave them be. But the rest—they’re just as tired and confused and scared as we are. Our inner crabs are much closer to the surface, perhaps, than normal times. These are not normal times, so we need to make room for that crabbiness, let it surface, wave its claws around for a bit, scuttle from one side to another. Then maybe we need to take a nap and remember that loving God involves loving these people who irritate us so very much.

September 3, 2020

Break. Friends have been posting about being broken, shattered, torn apart. Friends feel disconnected, isolated, restless, blah. I feel numb, snarky, and tired. We are all working so hard to hold all of it together. We’re attending to workplaces and schools changing or not or being constantly in flux; we’re washing hands and wearing masks and mad at those who aren’t; we’re exercising more or being lethargic, maybe both on the same day; we’re trying to get from here to November 3 in one piece; we’re seeing that the protests have to continue because cops keep killing Black people and certain segments of our population think this is acceptable; we’re being met with news of brutality from police, government forces, and random kids who get their hands on guns; we’re confronting the reality of how we perpetuate systemic racism; we’re drawing battle lines in churches about who is or is not Catholic, who is or is not Christian, who is or is not sinning. We are holding. We are straining. But here’s something I know: we grieve for a reason. We shatter in the midst of grief. We break open and let ourselves be raw, feel the overwhelming power of emotion and things beyond our control. We are laid flat and cannot deal. There’s a platitude that often accompanies tragedy: God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. To that I say, “Bullshit.” God gives us so much, and sometimes it is more than we can handle. God breaks us. God pushes our buttons and drives us up the wall. And God is big enough to take our frustration with this fact. God doesn’t pick us up and carry us along the beach. No, God sits there with us in the muck and mire and holds the pieces for us. She gathers them together, the Great Collector. At some point, in our brokenness, we become ready to to put one piece with another; we become puzzlers. Sometimes we glue the pieces back together; sometimes we let them sit, unsteady and unglued, in case we need to move them about for a bit. Even if you don’t believe in this Divine Accompanist, that’s fine. You too break; you too are an artist who puts yourself back together over and over again. All of us have chipped paint, cracks, ragged edges. We break and we mend. We aren’t meant to hold all of this perfectly right now. It is too much. Let yourself break: cry it out, scream, rage, kick a ball really, really hard, curl up in the fetal position, sleep, run as fast as you can down the street, turn up the music as loud as it will go. Shatter. But make sure you come back: settle your shoulders, dry the tears, drink lots of water, walk, listen to soothing music, talk gently and kindly to yourself and others, look at the trees, feel some sun, invite a friend to join you for a drink on the patio, drink more water. Shattering doesn’t mean we’re broken forever; it means we get creative about putting the pieces back. And they don’t have to go back precisely the way they were. Therein lies the magic of breaking.

September 4, 2020

Create a ritual. We are big Kansas City Irish Fest fans. This is the eighteenth year for the Fest, but like most things this year, it’s not the same. Usually, Patrick and I head to Kansas City on the Friday before Labor Day; we meet up with my family and head to Crown Center to kick off the festivities. Weeks of researching musicians and planning schedules have prepared us for this moment. Drink tickets are purchased; the Visitation beer tent is found; food trucks are scoped out. Vendors are perused; Patrick and I plot which tile we’ll get from Earthen Craft Pottery; I keep my eyes open for a sweater or scarf that must be added to my collection. During super hot years, we take refuge in Crown Center every so often; when it rains, we scamper under whatever tent is nearby; we are not fair-weather festers. Through it all, we dance to, marvel at, and sing along with musicians we’ve known of for years and others who are new discoveries. For three days, we fest; on Labor Day, we drag our weary selves north to home and pets and normal life. Before 2017, we dreamed of a trip to Ireland, vicariously visiting it during the Fest; after our first trip, we used Fest time to reminisce about how delightful it was to go there and prepare for our next March trip. This year isn’t like that at all. There are no tents or vendors or drink tickets. I imagine Crown Center looks forlorn. Irish Fest is my event, the one I want to have happen and am sad isn’t. For other people, it has been other concerts or celebrations, family gatherings or travels. I’ve missed other things, of course. That aforementioned March trip to Ireland, for example. But I’m missing Irish Fest a lot today. My mother taught me the importance of ritualizing. Being Catholic did too, but mom gave me the gift of honoring and celebrating what you miss. On Dad’s death anniversary, we always went to the cemetery and poured a Coke on his grave; even now, for Christmas, we sing “Jingle Bells” to his headstone. After we’ve said goodbye, we march over to where my uncle Kevin is buried and say hello to him. The cookies and milk I have on Dad’s anniversary, the beer on Shaun’s—these are communion. I learned to create space for what’s missing. Today I’m ritualizing the Fest: Irish music is playing; I’m wearing one of my souvenir shirts; soon I’ll write an e-mail to the Earthen Craft Pottery people and tell them how much we miss seeing them. It’s nowhere near the same, but we can still make it special. New ways of being are coming to light this year, and much as we may resent their having to be, there is goodness in recognizing the important things that aren’t what they were. Someday we’ll fest again. Until then, sláinte!