Tag Archives: stories

this specific corner; that specific room


It ordinarily ends in this specific corner of that specific room.
The very first evening ended in that space;
this one did too.
Time lies but this corner does not.
Suddenly new yet very familiar.
Children asleep,
dinner settling,
dessert in process
with a final matching mug or glass.

A chair is pulled up closer, but not too close,
even distance in inches matter.
A reachable circle for the conversation,
and the laughing,
and the impressions:

the toothless, tooth-brushing PSA.
the self, that one time in the middle of that one story.
that customer who opened with the confusing concern.
that student.
that voice.
that dynamic with those relatives.
that signature characteristic.

and the repeated jokes:
likely jokes not actually funny,
but jokes always grow into their own funny the later they emerge in the evening.

It is a treasure buried in the middle of a field, though;
true every single time.
Safe now, later in the evening,
smelling like people smell at the end of the 14 hours
when spare deodorant is actually not in the glovebox,
and the meeting sprawled too late to manage a swing by any corner store
on the way to this specific corner.

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the melody of
perhaps some shared camaraderie,
perhaps some shared hilarity,
perhaps some disagreement,
perhaps some agreement of disagreement,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are doing,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are trying to do,
and what it is we are trying to chase after,
after all…

where were we?…

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the perfect melody of
a treasure buried in the middle of the field.

Noticed now,
in this specific corner of that specific room.
Laughter and my own genes have left me sweating.
Food and beer have left me full.
Humanity and honesty,
Pretense prevented by exhaustion,
leave me speaking thanks out loud in between audible laughter
while driving home with a 14-hour smell that is not very funny.

After noticing that I’m sitting in this specific corner of that specific room,
the loud response in my cloudy thoughts is a refrain that continues to say,

Thanks be to God.

Pine Tree Dr.

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our stories are close together


The stories are always close together;
Whether banked on the west coast looking out over the Pacific
or banked on another west coast looking out over the Atlantic.

Stories of trial and error
hope and defeat
attempt and confusion
love and war
peacemaking and peacekilling
connectedness and isolation
restful work and work gin rest
redemption and destruction

an undercurrent of longing
that someone else
on one coast or another
resonates with the stories we keep
shackled behind our eyes––

stories remarkably close together––
even with miles of history or miles of dirt between.
but we keep them to ourselves
because our story, we’ve been told,
is the only one that looks this way.

and so we imagine the space between our stories
that was never there to begin with.

Our stories are always close together.

Napa Valley


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the way a snail carries his shell

You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live a world, but a world lives in you.

+ F. Buechner, Telling the Truth

And of course the reality is that we are, all of us, lugging around who we are and how we have become who we are everywhere we go. We carry it, the whole world of it, as Buechner says, “the way a snail carries his shell.”

We aren’t only carrying our shell of a world on our backs as we give big speeches or as we propose or as we write. We aren’t only carrying our shell of a world on our backs as we dream about the future and give testimony to the past.

We do, of course, carry it on our backs in those moments.

But it is in the more unsuspecting ways and places that we carry the weight of our worlds with us––for all the delight and all the pain with which they’re made–– that the influence of our shell is often and easily felt to be crushing or protecting us without our noticing the simple presence of it.

As if slowing down time, we begin to gain insight into the hidden parts of our worlds when we begin to observe the luggage on our back

in the humanity of conversations with those on the other side of counters at businesses.
in the tones that dogs are asked, yet again, not to chase down the neighbor’s stroller.
in the way we fill out paperwork at the jobs we were once nervous we wouldn’t be able to find.
in the faces or phrases we make when we are the recipients of ignorant words.
in the emotions we show those who cut us off, or who honk when we (accidentally) cut them off.
in the things we wish upon those who harm us, help us, love us or misunderstand us.

And the temptation is to freeze under the weight of our shells when we realize all that is at play every time we interact with another human being. But there’s an opportunity for compassion, on ourselves and others, hidden in the weight of the reality as well, much like the weight of the reality itself is hidden.

We have, in those moments, the opportunity to take another step in the direction of our choosing toward being the person we have hoped we were made to be, the person who is able to respond and receive compassionately, humbly, and gracefully.

The person who allows the weight of the shells we carry to tell us the truth about how messy our worlds are, how impossible some days feel, but how we come out the other side almost every time.

The person who recognizes, in his or her own business, restlessness, exhaustedness, selfishness, that  others are stumbling around in the day trying to hold all the same things while keeping their hair and faces on straight.

In the moments we begin, piece by piece, to accept the reality, that we, all of us, do not just live in a world but that a world lives in us, we begin to act and live in more human ways. And it will likely be terrifying.

Atlanta, GA

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If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic-bean-buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

+ Shell Silverstein, from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” pg 9 

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real-life fiction | the weekly mash | 5.5.2012

This week’s mash ended up being a kind of theme around the parts, pictures and issues of the real world that seem like they are straight out of a storybook. Whether novel-informed architecture, children’s hopes come to life, or mushroom photography that looks like the setting of any number of fantasy books, here’s the weekly mash. Enjoy, and add your own links to other mashable real-world story articles below!

The Drawing Hope Project | inspirefirst.com

children's photos brought to life by photographers“The idea is very simple – take drawings done by young children who live with a health condition and turn them into photographs, using themselves, their families, their dog – whatever happens to be in their drawing – it could be Superman, an 84 legged octopus flying in the sky or a field of rainbow coloured sunflowers. The magic is in taking their imagination and turning it into reality, supporting the belief that anything is possible.”

(Legal) Mushrooms up Close | naldzgraphics.net
traight from the real-world, these up close photographs immediately make me think I’m flipping the pages of an imagination-driven children’s book. Real life looks computer-generated in these shots.

10 Buildings Inspired by Books | flavorwire.com
10 book-inspired architectural designs
These ten buildings were inspired by everything from The Hobbit to The Castle to Moby Dick. Alice in Wonderland is of course included as well. I would live in the castle based on Lichtenstein if I had to.

One Night of Supermoonlight | rt.comThe supermoon of may 5, 2012Even though these photos are from the “supermoon” on May 5, they look like they are straight out of the sequel to E.T. no doubt.


Hope you enjoyed the mash. Know of any other links where the blur between real-life and fiction is perfectly indistinguishable? Post them below!

Pine Tree

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losing and finding ourselves

When in Louisville this March, I went to see an art exhibit of Goicolea’s work at the Museum Hotel 21C. The piece above is a photo of his work where a relative of the Cuban American artist has been drawn from a negative rendering of the old photo, then posted on a telephone poll that sits inside the gallery.

I’ve been haunted by the piece ever since, and have been trying to understand myself what is so compelling about it.

With an ancestor’s portrait posted as lost on a telephone poll, it seems as though there is something deeply honest about looking, as if for someone lost, to find out who we are, where we’ve come from and what we are made of. We know that the stories we can remember of our own lives have been incredibly impacting, and we know that our parents share similar stories which have shaped who they are as well, and on and on through a timeline of generations ahead of us, a timeline that will precede after us.

Everyone looking for and finding themselves.
Shaped by the stories of who we are and who those who came before us were.

And we claim the stories of heritage we want attached to us. Stories of hard work and family and ingenuity and generosity and imagination.

And we wrestle against the stories we don’t want attached to us. Stories of racism and illness and greed and selfishness and arrogance.

The folks who check in for help to the psychiatric inpatient unit have been teaching me this last month what it means to grasp both sets of stories as we search for who we are and who we can be in the world. We look at our own lives and the lives of those who have come before us, we take a deep and unjudging breath, and we embrace the stories of hard work and racism and family and illness and ingenuity and greed and generosity and selfishness and imagination and arrogance.

In losing hopes of curating our stories to manipulate who we wanted to be, we find ourselves in the wholeness of who we are.

And in so doing, we are held and found accountable by those who have struggled with stories before us.


The picture below is a triptych of Goicolea’s where he has brought together all the family images from generations past and present, and placed them next to each other in one print. Because of the dates of the compiled photographs, a grandmother might be sitting as a child in her own granddaughter’s lap, blurring the lines of space and time while fortifying the lines of influence.

Pine Tree

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against single stories


We listen long enough to get the details needed to tell one story about those around us, and then we move on. It’s more about coping for us than about knowing another.

Someone is allowed either to be awesome or horrible.
Either cool or sketchy.
Either generous or greedy.
Either loving or hateful.
Either honest or dishonest.
Either strong or weak.
Either whole or damaged.
Either victim or perpetrator.
Either faithful or unfaithful.

And so we only give the humans we find ourselves in life with the opportunity to plead their cases for one or the other. And as soon as we have enough information to sort them into single categories, we do so.

And then we stop listening.

But we don’t stop talking; we often then take our labeling into conversations with others and inform them of where and what certain people are…and only are.

We get to stop listening, you see, and then those around us get to stop listening as well. We become a community of talkers.

We can see it clearly in global narratives about genocide, xenophobia, welfare and war.

But we don’t see it clearly in our conversations over coffee, in our sermons from our pulpits, in our clients in our offices.

Because we’ve been taught to stop listening once we’ve heard a single story about someone.

And then we imagine the way that King Jesus managed to interact with women and men in ways to suddenly surface more than single stories that had been communicated about them. Tax collectors become humble and generous. Centurions become sensitive and scared. Prostitutes become beautiful and hopeful.

But only after an opportunities for actual conversation. Only after listening. Only after assuming we may not know more than only one story about someone.

May we work to listen to those we think we already know. And may we be eager to have stories rewritten by the characters themselves rather than histories and jargon. It is part of living in the kingdom.

Pine Tree

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