just this side of anger, and on the other side of sadness

Somewhere near San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome on one of the most recent happiest days of my life – I was traveling alone, so this is the only picture I have of myself from that day of wandering.

I am particularly grateful today for mentors and friends who speak so clearly into my life, just when I need it. If you saw me weeping yesterday, it was probably because I just received this:

Prayer for Jessina

Father, I pray for Your child, as if she were my child: but I dare to ask - that if I am actually addressing her - through You - that You are the One doing the talking. Or at least getting a Word in.

And so I ask this:
That You not set her faithfulness against her hopes.
That - in Your very gentle way - You are unsparing in Your claim - on her - 

on all the things You’ve given her; to attend to.
That’s a hard prayer. And You are not a hard master.
She knows - better than I - what those things are.
So may she find, in her circumstances, en famille, in the Circle of her loves - and Yours: 
may she find support: not that support that shuts down, that “pacifies," that places her at the bottom of a deep, dark pool: but the support that stirs up, like the salt spray, the tang and the splash of her deepest yearnings.

Those desires are there for a purpose: not just to anchor her: but to set her free.

It is has been a strange new season of life these past few months – I hate using the word 'season,' and always have, as it seems to indicate some sense of 'this is what was meant to be,' or waiting circumstances out rather than taking active steps or problem-solving – but I can't think of a more fitting word right now. I feel like I am coming into myself, that for so long I talked up a big game – told myself that I was strong and intelligent and beautiful, etc. – without actually believing it. 

I think we all do that in our own way, hoping that if we say it enough maybe we'll inch towards believing it. It seems like in any career you have to be able talk bigger about yourself in order to get anywhere. It is that sense of talking 'bigger,' but more than that, not only taking up space but feeling like it is your space, that you belong there – that is what I am trying to get at. 

That I belong here – I know it more now than I ever have before.

There is a new expression on your face: more determined, but not (yet?) hard. I pray you can stay there, just this side of anger, and on the other side of sadness: and right in the middle of strength: real strength.


for molly and summer

A long time ago, a friend and I were walking home at dusk along College Avenue in Berkeley and she asked me what I thought were the essential things in life, those things that made life worth living. We started making a list, framing it as what we would tell our daughters someday. It has been a long while since I have looked back at it –

We will use cloth napkins.
We will have compost piles.
We will make love to good men.
We will pray for peace in the world.
We will try and be peacemakers in our own world.
We will go by ourselves to fancy restaurants.
We will not make excuses for spontaneity.
We will have slow meals late into the evening.
We will have open doors to friends and strangers alike.
We will try new recipes often.
We will have successful careers.
We will be willing to give those up to be mothers.
We will not let the allure of success control our lives.
We will be bold when love requires boldness.
We will be meek when love requires meekness.
We will see everything as an opportunity to practice virtue.
We will have art on our walls.
We will stop during the day to sit and stare at it.
We will make our own art for our walls.
We will write long letters to far away friends.
We will hum as we wash the dishes.
We will say yes as often as possible.
We will say no when necessary.
We will go to the ballet in the city on a whim.
We will wear lumpy sweaters and red lipstick when we're old.
We will be sexy mothers before we grow old.
We will live in a place where we can walk to the grocery store.
We will walk or bike instead of drive as often as possible.
We will take care of our bodies.
We will not be ashamed of our bodies.
We will grow large gardens.
We will bring our children to museums.
We will never be too old to keep learning.
We will have front porches and sit on them often.
We will teach our children to love traveling.
We will teach our children to love rootedness.
We will make eye contact with the world.
We will learn new skills with each year's coming.
We will dance in the kitchen.
We will stop the car to pick flowers on the side of the road.
We will drop to our knees, everyday.
We will listen to our mothers with patience.
We will give grace to ourselves, and grace to others.
We will choose others before ourselves, without forsaking ourselves.
We will come into the peace of wild things as often as possible.


bests of the summer

though this has been a pretty shitty summer, there's still much to be grateful for:

blackberry shrub // our five-year old neighbor, jésus // walking downtown // winning the co-op's grocery giveaway // BOBBIT HOLE // tacos in philly with derek // birthday kayaking + rosé // twin peaks // fireworks on every street in chicago // lula's in logan square, twice // going back to where we had our first kiss // cardamom-sugared churros // the best kitchen sink // that perfect salad at the bread bar in hamilton // learning to like olives // jason molina reunion show // that bun at fika // the bright yellow walls of kira's room // ed ruscha at the nasher // and afternoon walks to the nasher // walking to rose's // LADIES' WEEKEND // spontaneously stopping at the botanical gardens in richmond for the solar eclipse // charcuterie boards for dinner // mark jarman and marie howe // kensington market in toronto // bar brunello with amy when she came to visit // working hard // max in town // valley forge with mom and dad // big thief // driving to charlottesville // niagara falls // "work harder, don't complain, spend more time alone" // mepkin abbey, where i am at peace // mossy banners // biking more // talking about pictures with fred, jaheim, jonathan and julian // how our new street looks like that one gordon parks photograph // drinking wine and reading that one night while amy cooked dinner for us // joan didion and marilynne robinson // singing the sanctus at holy family


the air is light blue today

Listening to this song all day long.

I really love this bag.

And Sarah Coakley:

"What also follows is that the silence of contemplation is of a particular sui generis form: it is not the silence of being silenced. Rather, it is the voluntary silence of attention, transformation, mysterious interconnection and (in violent, abusive, or oppressive contexts) rightful and divinely empowered resistance: it is a special 'power-in-vulnerability,' as I have elsewhere called it. Contemplation engenders courage to give voice, but in a changed, prophetic key."

(God, Sexuality, and the Self)

[Joshua Tree, January 2017, 35mm]


eleven zero one

We are moving into a new home this week and leaving behind our yellow house, a space that (minus the cockroaches) has been comfort and safety to me these past two years. I slipped on my wedding dress for the very first time in the bedroom, and a few months later put it on with my mother and sister by my side in that same room. It is the home Austin and I first came home to after our honeymoon, and the place where we have grown in love and understanding for one another. We have argued in this house, planted rosemary and lavender and mint in the front yard, built a raised bed with our own hands, strung lights in our backyard, hosted any number of bonfires and parties. We have filled this space with friends, over and over again, on air mattresses and at the dinner table, the leaves extended to fit as many people as possible.

I rode my bike by the yellow house a random hot spring afternoon in 2015, and thought, I want to live there. I memorized the address and looked it up online when I got home, and found out that it was a rental property, and due to be up for lease come the month that I needed to move. But, the realty company wasn't sure the current tenants would be moving. I spent that next month praying and riding my bike by it almost every day. I called the realty company every week to see if there were any updates, and finally heard word that it would actually be up for rent. It was a little more expensive than we anticipated, but a friend told us to go for it, that the first house that you live in as a married couple carries deep and meaningful memories, and that it would be worth it. So we did.

It wasn't until later that I noticed that the address 1101 was also our wedding date, November 1st—a silly coincidence, but one that makes me happy, and makes it seem fitting that it has been our first married house.


april + may books

1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

In the span of a month, I had three people (two strangers!) tell me this was their favorite book, so I took that as a sign I should read it. The novel chronicles the forbidden young love of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, the latter whom eventually marries another man, a doctor, after much persuasion from her father. Márquez contrasts Dr. Urbino—a modern, rational man—with the wild and emotional love of Florentino Ariza, who remains devoted (albeit with quite a number of trysts) to Fermina Daza, even into old age. I don't know if I would say Love in the Time of Cholera is my favorite book, but definitely worth the read.

2. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison

I'll let Toni Morrison sum it up: "These speculations have led me to wonder whether the major and championed characteristics of our national literature—individualism; masculinity; social engagement vs. historical isolation; acute and ambiguous moral problematics; the thematics of innocence coupled with an obsession with figurations of death and hell—are not in fact responses to a dark, abiding signing Africanist presence. It has occurred to me that the very manner by which American literature distinguishes itself as a coherent entity exists because of this unsettled and unsettling population."

3. Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Edward Snow

It has been awhile since I carried around Rilke (Book of Hours) in my bag everywhere I went, and I thought I had 'outgrown' him, worn him out along with every other like-minded student at my college. Duino Elegies reminded me that I will never outgrow Rilke. I keep coming back to these words, especially: "Here is the time for the sayable, here is its home. / Speak and attest."

4.  Putting Art (Back) In Its Place by John Skillen

I was glad to read this delightful and necessary book by a friend and mentor. Focusing on the visual culture of medieval and Renaissance Italy, Skillen argues how art in lived spaces guides communities together into their shared calling. With ample examples and a call for the contemporary Church to return to this model, Skillen evades falling into nostalgia—though at times it seems his target audience is a first-year college student with little understanding of liturgy or history.

5. The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

A quick, simple read—Heschel writes like a poet: "The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world."


on prayer | 20

"Such a deepening of vision will eventually also involve at some point a profound sense of the mind's darkening, and of a disconcerting reorientation of the senses - these being inescapable fallouts from the commitment to prayer that sustains such a view of the theological enterprise. The willingness to endure a form of naked dispossession before God; the willingness to surrender control (not to any human power, but solely to God's power); the willingness to accept the arid vacancy of simple waiting on God in prayer; the willingness at the same time to accept disconcerting bombardments from the realm of the 'unconscious;' all these are ascetical tests of contemplation without which no epistemic or spiritual deepening can start to occur. What distinguishes this position, then, from an array of other 'post-foundationalist' options that currently present themselves in theology is the commitment to the discipline of particular graced bodily practices which, over the long haul, afford certain distinctive ways of knowing."

(Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self)