Imperfect Serenity

Atom Site Feed

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Abundance and Scarcity

Once a year, my friend Melissa Haertsch gets me to write a poem for a poetry/visual art collaboration she organizes. This year's theme is water, and here is this year's result:

Abundance and Scarcity

Lake Seneca is full,
like the septic tank,
so we wash with dribbles
and flush sparingly

while neighbors spray
the suburban carpet
that has replaced wetlands
outside Milwaukee.

Hindus worship the sacred
Ganges polluted by Coke,
as villagers protest
their thirst.

The view from space
reveals undivided blue,
expansive but salty—
the cause of future wars.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I was gearing up to write a post about how I haven’t figured out the purpose of Twitter, except we were scrambling to go to the Finger Lakes, where I don’t have regular Internet access. I was going to question the usefulness of hearing when someone I don’t know has gotten up or brushed her teeth. I was going to muse about whether I should be one of those authors who offers preachy advice or simply quotes others’ advice (which somehow feels less preachy). I was going to, but in the days I’ve been without Internet Twitter has become part of the Iranian uprising, and I don’t know what to do other than keep pressing the “refresh” button on the Iran discussion. In the few minutes it’s taken me to type these three and a half sentences, there have been 1028 new posts to the Iran conversation on Twitter. Twitter itself has become a subject for CNN coverage.  The pictures of soldiers confronting protesters reminds me of South Africa, but this dynamic of people in Tennessee and Iceland commenting and sending words of support instantaneously, and people in Iran sending news updates and commentary, it’s just amazing. I’m not sure where it is all going, and I’m still not sure what kind of tweets I want to offer, but it’s not nearly as boring as I feared a week ago.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rural Ruminations

In Philadelphia, I count as a nature lover. I identify poison ivy for my friends and compost every banana peel. I’ve planted a garden in our postage-stamp-sized lot and occasionally walk in the Wissahickon. But for the past two days we’ve been visiting a friend in Northeastern, Pennsylvania who is making me feel like a total city chick. In addition to two children and a writing business, my friend has 20 something laying hens, a few roosters, a swarm of chicks, three sheep, two dogs, two cats, and a turkey that she purchased to share some kind of immunity with the chickens. (How that happens, I have no idea.) The property around her house includes woods, field, an old orchard, fox, bear, and all kinds of critters, not to mention a great diversity of birds. During our visit, she has casually used more than one farming term that I’ve needed explained. As I sat on a beautiful sheep fleece this morning, she mentioned that she tanned it herself (despite being a vegetarian who doesn’t eat any of her animals and keeps the sheep for fun). “Well, I wasn’t going to throw this beautiful fleece away,” she explained. “And I certainly wasn’t going to FedEx it in an icepack to some Amish guy in Lancaster County to tan it”—which is precisely what I would do if I were ever in possession of a dead sheep and clever enough to think of that.

It’s not just the beauty of this place that’s got me thinking. It’s the intimacy with a particular natural place. This morning we had fresh laid eggs and pancakes with maple syrup made by a man who joined us for breakfast. As we finished one container of maple syrup and began a new one that tasted like the hot toddy I had last night, conversation turned to how the syrup tastes different depending on the particular trees tapped and the weather that season. It reminded me of an NPR story I once heard about how farmers in Ireland know which grazing hills produce the best butter. In Philadelphia, our butter and syrup always taste the same, and I suspect we are poorer for it.

I really have no desire to tan a sheep or tap maple trees, but if I was in danger of romanticizing the rural life, the recent news of extremist violence keeps popping to mind, reminding me that there are hate groups in this area. A good friend, walking with his wife in another part of rural Pennsylvania, recently had the word “nigger” screamed at him, twice, by a young woman in a pickup truck. I remember that story and my friend—who speaks at least five languages and understands culture and world events as well as anyone I know—and I remember why I live in the city. Although I occasionally fantasize about moving back to this area, or one like it, I would miss too much the richness of a diverse culture. I would miss the friends who might not feel safe or welcome around here. I would miss knowing that my kids are growing up with friends of many religions and hues and different types of family structures. Still, when we get home, I’m going to miss the fresh eggs and the view from the porch, not to mention the good people we love who do live here.

My fantasy is to bring these worlds together—to keep our city neighbors, but have a view with less concrete and more green. Maybe there’s a place to live where we could have both, but I haven’t found it yet.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Friendly Request

I’ve been working on my website lately, trying to give it more content, and I realized I could use some input. For example, I am going to post a page of frequently asked questions about Quakerism, and while I know what some of them are, it would be fun to hear your FAQs (whether you are a Quaker or not). I also have a page of Resources for working against racism which I haven’t developed yet. I’d love to hear the books, movies, and websites most helpful to people doing racial healing work. Finally, I’m trying to figure out how to make my Serenity Prayer page show up in a Google search for the prayer, so I’d especially welcome feedback on the Serenity Prayer page or links to it (should it ever seem appropriate on your own blogs or sites).

Coming from a branch of Quakerism not known for its evangelism, the thought of intentionally trying to reach people is a bit…awkward, but I feel it is something I’m called to do. I’m still trying to figure out the way of doing it that feels in keeping with my values. Offering information that people might find useful seems like something that feels rightly ordered and is also valued by the search engines.

(P.S. Please post suggestions on the blog, unless you have a reason not to be public in them.)

Who Links Here