Wednesday, December 06, 2006

sharing the ache

his tears
are my tears

his ache for family
for childhood, the past
also mine

in the comfort of our bed
we cry together

we feel the hole
of incompleteness
the swift approach of death

united we hold the eternal ache
and wait for its fulfillment

Currently reading : Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith By Barbara Brown Taylor

Thursday, November 30, 2006

two nights

a cottage of wood-paneled walls
garden views and cozy intimacy
like a mountain retreat in the city

strung with lights
redolent with coffee aroma
warm with the bodies of friends

surrounding the table
feasting while Elvis sings about Christmas
sharing stories tender from our past

laughter uncontrollable
understanding familial quirks
bonding as family ourselves

in another night, repeated regularly,
we three congregate in our living rooms
giddy with wine

finding each other hilarious,
witty, delightful
simmering with jokes and possibility

sharing the confusion of waiting
the pain of loss
is as acceptable as laughter

and both happen
over "Sex and the City"
over martinis and chocolate

on a simple weeknight
where we accept all that we are
and love it completely

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: The Front Porch

The Front Porch, Mission District, San Francisco (

In the pouring rain on a blustery Monday night, we entered a packed new neighborhood restaurant, The Front Porch, in the Outer Mission half a block from the incomparable Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Tucked into what looks like the bottom floor of a house with a front patio (as opposed to a porch) of rocking chairs and tables, the heat inside enveloped us as we ducked in out of the wild wind and rain.

For a Monday night, the place was packed and festive, requiring a 30 minute wait for a table. They only take reservations for groups of five or more so thankfully, with a group, we were seated right away and set up with an affordable carafe of Pinot Noir. The décor was eclectic, funky, yet laid back with warm, candlelit ambience. The welcoming atmosphere was slightly marred by the cacophonous din, requiring leaning in close to be heard.

Pondering the menu, it read as “upscale Southern comfort food” without the upscale prices, the most expensive item being $15, with most entrees around $11. The collard greens with tomatoes, onions and lightly fried potato ‘poppers’ were satisfying though slightly underwhelming. There was nothing exciting about the dish, no distinctive flavor, merely a straightforward, decent presentation of vegetables.

A bigger hit was red bean and coconut soup with spicy avocado mash. The mash was barely spicy, but the dish satisfied in textured beans with a hint of coconut offset by creamy avocado. Addictive and interesting, it raised the expectation level for our entrees.

Moving on to sweet corn grit porridge with Dungeness crab, habanero, lemon and scallion, we could barely finish the large, filling plate. An appetizer and the entrée were plenty for two accompanied by tasty, complimentary corn mini-muffin-like bread. The crab was fresh and sweet, soaked in lemon and scallion, but the dish had almost too much porridge without enough contrast or spice from the nearly non-existent habanero. Still, the overall effect was gratifying and well worth the price.

My vegetarian friend was delighted to find the daily vegan/vegetarian options in an otherwise meat-laden entrée selection. The option was a butternut squash dish with various roasted vegetables, flavorful and hearty.

We ordered the dessert special: a chocolate, peanut butter and banana “fried” sandwich, which seemed to be just some bread with chocolate, PB, banana and whipped cream rather than actually fried. The chocolate was dark, the peanut butter rich, but the bread a bit dry. The Southern “fried” sandwich we were hoping for was not what we were presented with.

A disappointing ending to what was a patchy yet very promising meal. It is immensely better than its overrated sister restaurant, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, which is lauded as a ‘hipster’ neighborhood spot, heavy on atmosphere but after multiple visits provides nothing but bland, boring food and obnoxious noise level. The Front Porch is already a huge improvement: cozy, interesting, and affordable with the rare SF option of eclectic Southern American food (thankfully, becoming more popular of late), making me desperately want this local spot to succeed. Having only been open a few months, one hopes that the “kinks” will be worked out and the magic suggested by its warm, intimate glow and front patio rocking chairs will carry over into consistent food … an ideal neighborhood treasure.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Where are you?

After hearing Brian McLaren speak at Grace Cathedral yesterday - so humble yet with prophetic voice and open clarity:

If only there were more like him in my city: open, hungry, still evolving no matter what age, reaching the deepest, freest, most honest parts of faith and life as they mature, rather than becoming more dogmatic or 'comfortable'.

If only there were more like him to partner with, dialogue, seek, wait and be whatever we may be on that journey towards authentic, beyond- slogans-and-Christian-culture faith. Faith that affects all parts of oneself, not the parts that feel 'safe' to show. Rather than the constant effort and emotional attempts towards 'being stirred and on fire' towards revival that lead to little or no character change or healing of the heart, but more often to disappointment when one finds themselves unchanged and still not seeing revival, I crave the effort of faithfulness, to be honest wherever one is at, to seek God's face whether absolutes are shaken or even dissolving, to wait before God and just be, not have to prove anything with any effort, even prayer, to know that grace is a lot more encompassing than we even dared hope.

Where are you postmodern, emergent leaders who do not need or want even those labels but who cannot remain in the confining box of modernism and consumer Christianity? Those who cannot continue on with status quo of organized church and Christianese another day or it will kill your spirit? Those who must seek fresh, authentic ways of expressing faith - not more words, but more of a heart transformation towards freedom and acceptance of others and yourself. Where are you? If we could share our hearts and journeys, this gaping loneliness of evolving faith would not disappear but it might find a path of flesh and bone in our city. I know you're out there by the thousands ... I read your thoughts online, your books, hear your speeches (like McLaren's yesterday). But I find so few of you in my day-to-day, in my city: it seems as if we are still alone, longing for kindreds in the midst of blindness and complacency masquerading as 'faith on fire' yet without substance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

upon reading Wendell Berry

“Works of art participate in our lives; we are not just distant observers of their lives. They are in conversation among themselves and with us. This is a part of the description of human life; we do the way we do partly because of things that have been said to us by works of art, and because of things we have said in reply.” - Wendell Berry's "Style and Grace" Essay

What a beautiful thought! Reading Wendell Berry essays (I'm reading: "What Are People For?") is always thought-provoking in areas of religion, the environment and US and world economies. Essays such as "Why I won't buy a computer" can initially seem immature or irrational but stir interesting thought and responses (that particular article was published in "Harper's" and received almost all negative responses). His essay, "God and Country", expresses well how the Church at large buys into the same economy as corporations - it must to keep its organization/structure alive, thus drawing the line between "ministry" and 'other' Christians who must serve God 'in their spare time'. That ever present separation of sacred and secular; to spiritualize those who use excessive God/Jesus language (i.e. those who make the name trite or shallow due to overuse or not meaningul use) and acts that serve the Church structure, if not the actual community (local or world) or 'the body'.

"... ‘full-time Christian service’, which the churches of my experience have used exclusively to refer to ministry, thereby once making of the devoted life a religious specialty or career and removing the possibility of devotion from other callings. Thus the $50,000-a-year preacher is a ‘full-time Christian servant’, whereas a $20,000 or a $10,000-a-year farmer, or a farmer going broke, so far as the religious specialists are concerned, must serve ‘the economy’ in his work or in his failure and serve God in his spare time. The professional class is likewise free to serve itself in its work and to serve God by giving the church its ten percent. The churches in this way excerpt sanctity from the human economy..." - "God & Country"

It is interesting how Christians often lift up those who devote their time to prayer or the church or even a missionary who is out "saving souls" as most holy, while those doing practical work to meet needs either physical or emotional, actually 'feeding and clothing Christ', are overworked and unrecognized, with few to partner with them. Acts of love are every bit, if not more, sacred in the difficult drudgery of the day-to-day, not just in grand acts, 'ministry' settings or when able to be seen by others.

Having worked for some years in ministries myself, where this feeding and clothing was actually happening, as were a lot of other clearly contrary acts to the message of Christ (as it is in any group of people), even having spent months doing life-altering work in remote slums or third world villages, none of it is quite as character-building or powerful as learning to give that love in my daily 'grind', in my own household, to difficult acquaintances and friends, on the streets outside your door, and sometimes hardest of all, in finally accepting vs. loathing yourself.

The economy of grace and love is here at every moment. The most sacred is right in front of us, not in hours of prayer or service, though these can be healthy, important pieces of our lives. They are never the whole, though, nor even our closest moments to our Creator. If we would but open our eyes, we'd see God in the 'insignificant' now, right in front of us, and we would weep with the sheer beauty and the immense possibility to give love... and receive it... in every humble moment.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Last night was the opening of the play "Doubt" at the Golden Gate Theater. One of Dan's favorite playwrights, John Patrick Shanley, won the Pulitzer for it last year, while Cherry Jones won a best actress Tony.

The original cast was here in San Fran following their Broadway run - so we had to enjoy the rare opportunity to see the NY cast. Jones was perfect in mannerisms, accent, expression and restraint. A transformation from other characters she has played in film or TV, one both harsh and sympathetic.

Her role exemplified the spirit of the play in general: the duality of each person, the dark and light existent in the same heart. The cancer of suspicision and gossip is clearly displayed... as is the absolutely righteous nature of justice and calling for the truth.

In the complicated reaches of the church, the possible molestation of a choir boy by the priest initially seems to be another scathing indictement of the church's sexual wrongs. Yet the play was nothing of the sort. It was a rich, layered exploration of the capability for error in each of us, the well meaning mixed with the downright awful, the doubt that lurks in even the most confident, certain mind.

When the audience frequently gasps in a play with no greater action than conversation in a church, you know it is well written and acted. One of the best plays we've seen (along with the incredible "Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train" - the best), with all the acclaim I suspect the translation to film is possible - and could be as riveting a film as a play.

Monday, October 30, 2006

in the tower

"Eat... Pray... Love", by Elizabeth Gilbert. I picked it up at the library a few weeks ago intially because of the title - the subject matter of food, travel and spiritual discovery encapsulates key passions. If I didn't like it, I would just return it and not bother finishing. At first, it seemed potentially trite, bordering on cheesy throughout. But Gilbert's frank, simple honesty would suddenly pierce through just as I was starting to lose interest. I speedily finished it on our trip to the South, finding it speaking rather specifically to me at moments on the path of renewal, confirmation and release I am walking.

Oddly enough, without ever having discussed the book with her, I find Kristy is reading it, too. A 'conicidence' of kindreds. As she and I had a long dinner at my favorite Incanto on Thursday, we discussed the themes of surging freedom in our lives that are both frightening in their borderless horizons and thrilling in their possibility. Fear of what 'they' will think is still paramount. Rejection of past paradigms is a real concern. Staying 'true' while no longer holding on to worry about what it looks like to anyone but God is the hope. Letting go of the structure that enslaves while standing on its platform to build fresh, wildly varied expression is the final frontier. If only openness wasn't condemned, this territory might not be dreaded to such an extent. I am fearing it less and less.

Wines, rich grains and cheeses, silky panna cotta stimulated the Incanto outpouring. As Gilbert was in the tower in India all night until she finally released her loss, her pain, her forgiveness, her vulnerability, so I have known enclosed, protective spaces meant to nurture me but actually keeping me from my heart's deepest desire and constant prayer: freedom. In the tower I face release. Soon ready to come down. Gilbert's book only hints at but represents a small piece of the freedom that comes from forgiveness and acceptance of not only all... but of yourself.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Real Sunday

My favorite days: days of honest, soul-to-soul engagement and revelatory insights. Early morn brought the Eucharist at Grace Cathedral. Intimate compared to the 11am service in the cavernous, breath-taking space, the early Eucharist arranges seating in the choir area, making for a face-to-face, interactive experience. I don't know what it is but every time I am at Grace, I fight back the tears. I sense the presence of the Creator in a tangible way, connecting with the past, reaching towards the future. Somehow the name of Christ, over-used, abused and trivialized in most Christian circles, holds an unexpected beauty and tenderness here... as if new, revered, not overworn, marketed, for personal agenda.

With Scott and Louise, Dan and I walked to the quirky, darling Red Door Cafe. We talked for two hours over crispy french toast, huevos and cappucinos. It was the usual stimulating discussion of faith, the Church, leadership, our post-modern culture, frustrations and revelations. We sealed the discussion with a walk around Nob Hill, slipping into hotels to peek at the Tonga Room, savor the spectacular view from Top of the Mark, feel the woody warmth of the Big 4 bar at the Huntington. Scott and Louise are just what we have prayed for for years...

Back to Grace Cathedral to hear one of my all time favorite authors, Anne Lamott, speak. This is the third time I've heard her and truly it was the best. With more time and an interactive setting, she rambled, read excerpts from the book she is working on, was hilarious and profound. She tends to be fiercely political, exceptionally honest about her rage with recent miracles of grace overtaking these areas. What stays with me most, especially at this forum, is her blatant, simple need to be herself and not harbor guilt and shame over it. To realize she will not please or appeal to everyone, will piss off many, enrage a few, delight and inspire others, but in the end, she must be true and know deep within that she is accepted and loved by God, no matter what anyone else thinks. Not just know it but know it. Anne handled herself with humility and the usual self-deprecation but I also saw a stronger sense of peace emanating from her than in past years. It represented what I have been feeling in recent days, what I have been praying my 30's would be like and what I have been reaching for since I lost my audacity as a girl… to fully come home, knowing complete acceptance from my Source which then allows me to be freely and unashamedly myself while giving that same space to others.

From there, Karen M. and I went to the Persimmon Café in the TenderNob, talking (and crying) for hours. As is always the case with her, a kindred in the realm of 'realness', the time was transparent, beyond the veil, no pretensions or masks needed. We cried tenderly over recent revelations whispered deep into our hearts. Of the growing strength and knowledge of who we are, fully loved, beautiful, how this is transforming us as it has moved beyond words and ideas into growing actuality. From a far off, desperate hope, it has become actual character change, agonizingly slow but exploding by leaps and spurts as we turn 30. Karen's brutal honesty and transparency speak life to me... as does her unadulterated adoration and support of me. She has been one of those exceptionally rare friends who actually sees me at core and speaks life to my core, even if we rarely see each other, each interaction brings this level of depth… such a gift.

I returned home at twilight, full from a long, rich day. As promised, I called Manka back as we'd talked about attending a poetry event this evening. We both needed to be home instead but ended up talking over an hour about community, 'realness', the continuous evolving of our faith.

Full to the brim with encouragement, I saw God through each person I connected with today. Not so much through their words as through their honesty as they journey towards whole acceptance, authentic faith beyond words and culture (that loathsome 'Christian bubble' culture). As we seek growth of the character and the soul. God reminded me through these interactions that despite evidence to the contrary (when those around are well-meaning but on totally different pages), I am not alone.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Haunted Savannah

Savannah, otherwise dubbed as "crazy pirate town" or "eerie ghost central" by Dan and myself, was a perfect last stop to our road trip. On the way, we stopped for a few hours on Hilton Head Island so Dan could golf (most national golfing tournaments are held on this famed, tiny island) and to roam the beach (the sand is so hard, people ride bikes on it!)

After the pristine beauty of Charleston, I expected something similar from Savannah (as people often compare the two) but found though they are both historical, impeccably preserved cities less than two hours from each other near the coast, they are radically different. They're in different states for one (SC and GA respectively). Where Charleston is pretty and colorful, Savannah is gritty and grey. Where Charleston is bright and a step back in time, Savannah is a mixture of old and modern with a moody, dark edge. Where Charleston has pirate stories (parks where public hangings of pirates took place), Savannah feels like a rough pirate town along River Street with historical restaurants/pubs with pirate carved tunnels underneath where pirates would drag men after drugging them to waiting ships to be endentured slaves.

The squares of Savannah (21 in all - one every few blocks layed out in a perfect grid) are beautifully dreamy, exuding a lazy, old world feel with their mossy trees and fountains. To truly experience Savannah, one need merely sit in the squares and watch.

We stayed at River Street Inn, a historical 'monument' at over 200 years old, with a lovely, high-ceilinged room overlooking the Savannah River. The river water is dirty with ports along it a prime spot for overseas cargo. Lined with industrial smokestacks and barges, it was not exactly asethetic but it was more than interesting. River Street itself is touristy, lined with crappy souvenir shops capitalizing on pirates and the over-hyped "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (both book and film take place here).

But the cobblestoned street, waterfront benches, handful of riverboats, gas lamps, brick, grey, soot-stained buildings and balconies lining the street made us feel insanely out of time. Like gritty Disneyland for grown-ups. Especially with open alcohol policy! One can roam the streets of Savannah with a beer or glass of wine in hand, no paper bag required. We had to try it and so we did with Dan's artillery punch (a crazy story about that, like so many stories here).

Our character-rich hotel had a free, nightly wine and cheese 'hour' (rather two, from 5-7pm). With a big porch lined with white rocking chairs and fans overhead, you can guess where we spent every night in Savannah before heading out to dinner. We'd sit for two hours each night, wine or champagne in hand, Dan smoking a cigar, either reading, dreaming together, talking to other visitors at the hotel, or watching the sun set and the bustling crowds go by on River St.

Street musicians were top notch, our favorite being two African American guys, one middle-aged playing a guitar, one grandfatherly with a doo rag, sunglasses (at night) and a big white beard only along the sides his face. They had deep, sonorous voices bellowing out blues in harmony. The dancing of the grandpa was almost robotic mixed with a bit of sheer groove. He 'worked it' while the other guy mastered slide solos and smooth licks. We cheered them on from our porch one night which led the younger guy to come up and ask where we were from and why we were here. When we said for our anniversary, he said we had to come down and sit in front of them so they could serenade us with an "anniversary song", as he called it. We came down and sat face to face along the water as it got dark while they sang us a medley of Billy Ocean and Lionel Richie, blues style, complete with smooth groove robot dance moves from grandpa. We tried to contain the laughter, just loving every moment.

The graveyards! Oh, the graveyards! Straight out of the movies, they are the gothic, eerie dream you envision in any Poe tale or vampire story. Moss laden, elaborate statues either morbid or angelic, headstones faded since the 1700's, one headstone grew out of a huge oak tree, the creepy Little Gracie statue, Johnny Mercer's grave ... all in the unbelievable Bonaventure Cemetary a few minutes drive from downtown. A huge acerage peacefully quiet and still, it went on and on in the grey, misty midday light, holding death of the centuries in its earth.

Some our favorite meals were in Savannah: Bistro Savannah on Congress St. was the quintessential gourmet, neighborhood restaurant. Perfection. It would succeed brilliantly in San Fran as it was probably the best, most creative meal we had our whole trip. My duck with confit (juicy, flavorful, tender) had sweet potato squares, dried cherries, walnuts and a rich cherry sauce drizzled atop it along with fried collard greens (crispy and melt-in-your-mouth). It was heavenly. Dan's chicken was likewise tender and stuffed with gorgonzola, prosciutto and arugula. Our crab cake starter was all crab meat (no bread) and in a spicy green curry sauce with mango relish on top. Oh, I am dying to go back as I remember it! Sapphire Grill was our anniversary night dinner and almost as excellent as Bistro Savannah. I had a perfectly crusted halibut with lobster dumplings and an addictive sauce. Surprisingly the calamari appetizer was the best we'd ever had: fried ever so lightly, with a ginger coriander pesto ponzu, spicy peanuts & fresh lime juice. The Lady and Sons, of Food Network queen, Paula Deen, fame, was such an experience, it would require a separate story (the long early morning lines just to get a same day reservation, the cattle call to get in, the "come and get it!" lady, the overly buttered, but heavenly tasting Southern food that was probably the best traditional Southern cuisine we had the whole trip). Hoecakes, garlic cheese biscuits, fried green tomatoes, chicken pot pie (with huge phyllo mountains atop), massive crab cake, rice and beans cooked in ham hocks... it was all 'heart attack central' AND worth the hype. Gryphon Tea Room was an 1800's dining room with stained glass ceiling, modern decor and impeccable teas and coffees. We whiled away a couple hours journaling there.

For drinks and live jazz, we found two most incredible spots I wish I could take home with me. I would frequent the incomparable Planters Tavern in the basement of the Olde Pink House, built in 1771 with a pink stucco exterior and colonial British, partially underground bar. Low ceilinged, fire places on either end of the room, brick, wood, antique furniture and couches... it thrilled me immediately.

We sat on a couch by the fire listening to local legend, Gail Thurmond, who has been playing there almost nightly for over 15 years. A local book describes her as "endearingly elegant" but Dan and I would say more 'endearingly quirky' with such a smooth, elegant tenor to her vocals that belies her appearance. She's grey-haired and comfortably plump, looking like a midwest mom, except for her shaded heart-shaped glasses and red dress hinting at her inner 'sass'. Her voice flows out in soothing, clearly-articulated waves ... her piano stylings are completely her own. I could have watched her all night. As it was, with nowhere to be other than where we wanted to be, we sat there with our wine and Jack & Coke (guess who had which?) for a couple hours savoring Gail's gifted, unique interpretations of many of my favorite jazz standards as well as as jazz renditions of Beatles tunes and other eclectic offerings. She had a hilarious way of raising her fingers when she would recieve intermittent applause after her songs. When she raised two fingers (gazing out over her glasses) it was with a smile and nod as if to say "thank you kindly". When she raised one finger, she had a more serious look as if to say: "Hold off - I'm not done", or "Wait..." Odd and delightful. In the course of the hours, Dan and I became expert at interpreting her minimally alerted expressions ("this is something, this is nothing" as the SNL skit goes). I had to pull myself away from the cozy cellar tavern that will remain fondly preserved in my memory.

The second spot was the unreal Mansion at Forsyth Park ("this is where we're staying next time!" says Dan): Casmir's Lounge, upstairs in the 700 Drayton restaurant - it must be seen to be appreciated. A stunning mansion full of history, grand staircases, chandeliers, ridiculously high ceilings... like an art museum full of massive, eclectic paintings, decorated modern with tactile velvet, fur, marble and gold. Extensive leopard print appeared in pillows and paintings, accompanied by reds, purples, browns, greens. Each room proclaimed itself lush, unique, striking! (a small taste of the bar: - it looks much more intriguing in person, candlelit at night). The jazz band playing that night was superb: trombone led, with drums, upright bass and a brilliant, young pianist. Half white/half black, the band had chops AND style. There was a cozy patio outside on the second floor off the Lounge, packed with smokers and men in suits. We explored the house, marveling at the decor and layout. Downstairs was a Bosendorfer Lounge with three Bosendorfers in a wood paneled, nautical modern, water running down glass walls, tree branch decor bar with brown, hip couches. Dan was giddy about the Bosendorfers - but we missed the nightly music as it plays early as opposed to the late night upstairs jazz.

The night at the Forsyth Park mansion was our anniversary and it was haunting and beautiful... just like this city built over graveyards, full of quirks, oddities and a checkered past. We would gladly return.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Enchanting Charleston

On October 7, we said goodbye to dear Adam & Kate and drove to Charleston in the pouring rain, passing through Columbia, SC, (yet another bleak city), where Hootie & the Blowfish are from (hilarious!) We had a laugh singing 'intensely' to "Hold My Hand" on the radio. They are proud of their Hootie.

We arrived that night around 9pm, heading straight to dinner at the cavernous, bar-like Coast; thrilled immediately by the mouth-watering, seafood heavy menu. We ordered a creamy crab dip, juicy lobster tails, and delicately prepared halibut. Everything was perfection! Our excitement for the coastal cities of 'meat' ... something we never tire of (though we did find we can get very tired of it FRIED). And Charleston does seafood right!

Indigo Girls were playing a show at a theatre right next to Coast (in the same alley), so we were able to hear the show crystal clear outside the side doors next to the stage. We listened a few minutes, sang along then walked the city streets.

The magic began (if it had not already with the meal) when I saw a gorgeous Southern mansion, ala New Orleans style with wrought iron balconies, brightly colored pink, and mossy oak trees packed in the yard. The patio and trees were covered in white lights, gas lamps lit up the balconies where people were mingling with cocktails. Live jazz filled the air while people walked in and out of a stately gate dressed in suits and cocktail dresses past a security guard.

"Oooh, Dan, this is just what I dreamed the South might be like! I want to go to this party SO badly!!" I jumped up and down. It was a party fit for a movie in New Orleans, the old South, slow-paced, dreamy and elegant. If only I could have crashed.

From then on, I knew I loved Charleston. It was confirmed in the following days as we explored this small city. There are some down sides: only downtown where the wealthy reside and tourists visit is beautiful. You pass Mary St. in the northern part of town and it's run down, decrepit, poverty-stricken, as is much of the state, SC being one of the poorest states in the US. This would make living there frustrating (not because it's poor but because of the dramatic disparagement and inequity of the city, more so than anything I've seen in other US cities. There is literally no more than a couple square miles that are gorgeous and the rest of the entire area is not, other than the islands).

But Charleston is so well-preserved, historical, colorful, clean and uniquely laid out. The homes are stunning. The harbor a welcome outline to this peninsula city (sounds like another city I know?) Wedged into alleys between sleek modern shops (or chains, such as Banana Republic, set in 1700/1800's buildings), was outdoor seating for cafes, gardens, or overgrown graveyards. Palmetto trees everywhere added an exotic Southern island feel while the architecture ranged from New Orleans style to colonial British. Pubs and seafood spots were plentiful. Bookstores and breakfast spots were not. Mystery and history abounded.

Getting caught one night in a wild thunderstorm was as exciting as it was annoying. We stood in a doorway all dressed up, waiting for an abatement. Though only a couple blocks from our hotel, it was raining so hard we were soaked. We took cover after a brilliant meal at Anson (she crab soup! One of my favorite foods of the South; the best shrimp and country ham hominy grits) at the plush Charleston Place hotel in the bar of their restaurant. A lovely jazz duo serenaded us as we drank and ate dessert... and kept laughing. We tried to control our volume in this elegant, wood-walled bar but Dan was acting up, we were both in giddy moods and everything seemed hilarious. I love those times between us - we're like children or overly animated actors who can't contain it.

We stayed in Charleston through October 10, had sweet, cool weather after the storms but it warmed back up to the muggy 80's by the time we left. There were many favorite spots and meals in Charleston. Just exploring the city was pleasure enough. We visited all three islands right outside the city: Mount Pleasant (the best she-crab soup at Locklear's and a divine sweet potato pie at the authentic Gullah Cuisine), Isle of Palms (playued in the ocean, walked the almost deserted beach), Sullivan's Island (enjoyed Fort Moultrie). We drank atop goregous rooftop bars: Vendue Inn for a watermelon margarita on a warm day, and Pavilion Bar atop the Market Pavilion Hotel for a romantic sunset glass of wine. We had a cozy, late night dinner at the Italian, Il Cortile del Re; lunch at the impeccable, scrumptious Magnolia's (best fried green tomatoes!); breakfast at the popular (and justifiably so, after tasting that shrimp & grits casserole) Hominy Grill.

I would return to these beautiful streets and anticipate it with pleasure. Here I found the South I had dreamed of.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Smokies and North Carolina

The road trip began as we left Nashville on October 4th and made our way through dreary Knoxville, Seiverville (with a statue of native daughter, Dolly Parton, in front of City Hall!), tacky, over-the-top Pigeon Forge, faux ski-resort Gatlinburg, on into the Smoky Mountains with streams meandering through the peaceful, fall-tinged woods.

As we drove further into this national park, we were hit with a stunning display of color, peaks, earthy fire smells, and the fabled "smoky" vapor dimming the outline of the hills. We drove to the highest peak, Clingman's Dome, a mere 6500 feet, too hazy to see far but still exhilarating.

The mountains were alive in red, orange and yellow with a greyish tint to the air... we kept our windows down even as it was cooler than our hot, muggy Nashville days. We much prefer fresh, invigorating air, which enlivened our singing to CDs of Dolly, Keb Mo, Johnny, Waylon, Loretta.

Leaving the Smokies, we drove through a Cherokee Indian reservation town as we crossed to North Carolina that had a sweet down-home, almost sad feel. After being assisted with directions from a dear Native American man with a Southern drawl who was heading into a Christian church, we had a tender spot for the area and its people.

We drove on into the Blue Ridge Mountains (known to be in Virginia but the Southern range is in North Carolina) which were likewise gorgeous and literally blue! Perfect silhouettes against the pink, smooth sky. The setting sun and intimate twilight hour made for a magical drive.

We stopped in the wonderfully hippie, organic, college town of Asheville. It was more my 'scene' as far as towns go: local cafe and restaurant lined streets, town squares, parks, intimate but with personality. After days of fried Southern charm, it was comforting to be in a place that prided itself on its produce, vegetarian food and hippie lifestyles. Reminded us of home...

A delicious vegetarian meal at Laughing Seed Cafe was perfect after a meat-heavy week - a needed interlude before hitting the road for the last two hour stretch to Winston-Salem.

We spent October 4-7 in Winston-Salem with Adam and Kate Davis, one of Dan's lifelong best friends - a dear friend of both of ours from the past decade. We adore Katie - they're amazing people. Kate is teaching art after recently graduating with her masters in art in Greensboro and is an incredibly gifted artist. Adam is just finishing up seminary (getting his MDiv) at Wake Forest. They are about to have their first child next month (how's that for a bio?)

It was a lovely visit of long talks, time with just me & Kate or Dan & Adam, time for the four of us, visiting NC wineries, hanging out in Old Salem, eating at Sweet Tomatoes, visiting Kate's gallery display where 16 of her pieces are being shown, visiting the Weatherspoon art museum she worked at for two years in Greensboro, making big dinners both nights at home, watching movies, watching a thunderstorm come in, being cozy, having a smoke outside.

It was a relaxed, life-affirming, precious time. We ache with our closest friends spread around the country. Dan cried as we left saying: "I miss him so. I miss having someone I want to be around that much". It's not easy to find friends like this though you may look a lifetime.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The South is like another world, though very much still the US. Back from a two week trek through the South with my Dan, we are exploding with images, impressions and experiences.

The kitsch factor was big, the history dark and sometimes shameful, segregation still present, varieties of authentic, quality ethnic or healthy food scarce (because varieties of ethnicities were sadly scarce!)... and yet mystery and uniqueness seeped into each state, the seafood and rich, Southern foods bordered on divine, the history so colorful it oozes out of city streets.

We took a road trip of sorts, flying into Nashville first, leaving from Savannah at the end of two weeks, driving everywhere in between. As swamps, strip malls, trees and Waffle Houses drifted past us and "The Man Called Cash" (Johnny, that is) audio book played in our CD player, our troubles and stresses fell away onto the pavement somewhere on Highway 40.

Nashville, September 30-October 4: As a girl, I dreamed of moving here, "heading down 40 with my old guitar", singing in sleazy honky-tonks, knocking down radio station doors while sleeping in my car (ala Loretta Lynn), until someone played my record. There's always been a strong fascination I've held for this world though it's tragically a time past - when making music and being discovered was a raw, dramatic event, often transforming poor, redneck pasts into international celebrity icons (Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Pasty Cline, Loretta Lynn, etc...)

The music history is rich in Tennessee but the present age of glitzy Faith, Tim & Shania pop country is a far cry from the raw simplicity and talent of early days. I thrill to country history but was unimpressed by the blandness of the city and its typical suburban-but-for-a-handful-of-highrises-downtown feel. This was not the place I secretly hoped it would be.

Driving Nashville was nothing short of a huge pain in the ass. For a 'directions queen' like myself, it was a nightmare as we kept taking wrong directions because of the idiotic 'wagon wheel' layout of freeways circling the city, making it impossible to tell north from south, east from west, as you're moving in circles and changing freeways every 1/2 mile.

Christian subculture seemed to have taken over from the massive Lifeway office buildings and complexes lining blocks of downtown, to the endless run of churches, to the business men praying at tables in restaurants. It felt hollow and empty, clearly lacking transformative power for the culture at large: predominantly white, well-off, similar to other parts of the Bible belt... and the US. The 'Christian thing' was a cultural, comfortable, even 'normal' expectation.

The best spots in town were in veritable isolation from each other: you have to drive everywhere (not a walking city with cafe and shop-lined streets) - a real pulse and "heart of the city" seemed non-existent. The closest to the 'center' of things is Broadway Street: a mere three blocks of boot stores, souvenier shops, BBQ joints, bars and the famed honky-tonks. The honky-tonks really only fill one block in entirety so the range is small but the liveliness broad. My favorite Nashville experience was walking this 'strip' on a Sunday or Monday night, drinking in the neon lights, drunken fools and rollicking music streaming from each doorway. Live music (and a cold drink) could be had literally morning till night, with some bars starting music at 10am until 2 or 3am. The late night options were plentiful and the vibe festive, to say the least. Tourists and locals mixed in a boozy haze of country rockabilly, Patsy-like swoons, acoustic mellowness or driving rock.

One night after hearing a slick country rock trio at Tootsie's (with a fabulous, driving rock, Cash Medley of "Folsom Prison Blues", "Jackson" and "Walk the Line"), we sat for what seemed like hours in Robert's Western World listening to the slightly more mellow but still driving band scaling musical heights from rowdy to romantically soothing. We shouted out requests such as my favorite, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" (good ole Waylon), and the band would oblige with searing guitar solos and buoyant vocals.

A middle-aged couple, dressed in business attire (seemingly colleagues, not lovers), began dancing energetically, if not skillfully, to the band. They pulled is in to join them on the dance floor with encouragement from the band to 'git on out there'. An older couple, a grey-haired cowboy and his blonde middle-aged partner, took to the floor after we did. They sat next to us throughout the night, polishing off rounds of Budweiser with cigarettes permanently hanging from their mouths. They announced their honeymoon status, though he looked no younger than 65 and she at least 15 to 20 years younger. They were from Texas. Of course.

The place was seedy and friendly simultaneously: a trucker/redneck-like atmosphere full of country charms and good cheer. We could not pull ourselves away from the glow, even when the business couple asked me if I was the girlfriend of the lead singer of the band (I suppose because he kept singing at me and asked me to help them with their tip jar during one song)! In fact, at Tootsie's I had a number of men making passes or comments to me even with Dan there. I suppose excess drink brings the prowlers out.

Knowing me and my passion for authentic, local food, we ate quite well and found great spots all over town (due to my hours of research ahead of time). The best spots were found in the West End area which had a slight range and edge but still more like a glorified suburb than urban. Even the supposedly hip Hillsboro strip with its cafes and restaurants was not even half as cute or eclectic as any Marin town/main street. Hillsboro's organic, funky Fido cafe was great but like any coffee shop in San Fran (though a 'dime a dozen' here, it was an isolated, and thus 'special', option here). Musicians surrounded us and we casually eavsedropped on their funny conversations ("You know T Bone Burnett?" - what music lover wouldn't? He's mainstream! - "Well, I want to produce good albums like he does". "Yeah, let's do that - make a good album", responds the other guy. Ok?!)

Some of the best restaurants were Virago (surprisingly good sushi flown in fresh daily and a more than welcome respite from Southern food), Germantown Cafe (elegant, delicious - despite the drunk girl who walked into the glass door!), The B'oundry (more 'upscale bar' but so fun in its tiki, 'adventureland', outdoor, torch atmos), Bobbie's Dairy Dip (ice cream!), Hog Heaven and Jack's for BBQ, The Acorn for dessert (a warm night on the second floor porch with jazz playing, lamps and little lights - so romantic!) Tayst was ambitious and had a primo wine list of tastings and half glasses (we were impressed they carried Justin and, of course, had to get a glass - perfection!) but the creative dishes fell just shy of their vision. The famed Loveless Cafe was a disappointment in some ways: biscuits were 'out of this world' and fried chicken, although way too fried, was tender and juicy. But everything else was TOO fried, too salty, too much. We felt ill and discovered we don't enjoy food that has the shit fried out of it (we didn't get any more eager for it as the trip went on!) Pancake Pantry was a scrumptious breakfast: the sweet potato pancake with cinammon cream syrup was just right.

I do not wish to disparage Nashville as it held one-of-a-kind delights we could not find elsewhere. But The Grand Ole Opry, which I'd dreamed of attending since a girl, was a commercialized, bland disappointment. The format of three songs per entertainer would have been perfect (variety show-like) with great performers (we just missed Loretta Lynn by a couple of nights). Our performer list was rather sad and at times, downright awful. Ernest Tubb's Midnite Jamboree (we had the wonderful Rhonda Vincent headlining the Saturday night jamboree) was SO much better than the Opry: tacky, casual, rowdy, authentic and delightful. We were on the radio at midnight enjoying this fabulous local tradition. The Opryland Hotel was fake and Disneyland/Vegas-like but a 'must see': almost thrilling in it's scope and detail. I ate up the exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame - such a delight to study a history I love so well. Line dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon was a fun experience, especially in our spiffy new boots we bought on Broadway (3-for-the-price-of-one - how could we resist?!)

It was a memorable few days in Nashville though Dan and I both know it's a city we could not love but are glad to have seen what it's like. It felt right to put my young girl's image of the place to rest and know I am a California New York girl with Oklahoma cowboy roots who could never be a whitebread Nashvillian but will always respect and love the music the place has birthed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

in silence comes truth

In silence comes truth
Not necessarily revelatory or eye-opening
(though at times, certainly so)
Most often it is simple clarity
About how things really work

In silence we peer behind the veil
Wake up from the haze of busyness
our current age (and especially our country)
have purported as the norm,
even in spirituality and faith

If we keep going fast enough
We'll conveniently miss life and not have to deal with its
immense, unending sadness and ecstatic beauty

But if "the word was made flesh and dwelt among us"
and "the kingdom of heaven is here and now",
As Jesus claimed, then the incarnation
Means experiencing God in the flesh
In our flesh, which God hand-crafted and is not for disdain

In this breeze, the sound of birds, wind chimes, distant planes
In the brightness of sun and the laziness of mid-day
I wait... hear, smell, feel you

When focusing in stillness, even for a moment,
Suddenly the world comes alive with sights and sounds
Normally seen as ordinary, mundane
Now insights into the Creator
Usually overlooked as too obvious for contemplation
Now the portal straight to a living God

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

calling for back-up

The South calls
with moss and bbq and shrimp boats
representing romance or reality
The journey will soon tell

But fog now envelops my vision
and the milky way promises
given by glowing firelight
seem taunting, shallow

In the shadowy murk
of forging calling alone
Kindreds are nowhere to be found
in these craggy hills

Many could sympathize
Few would share the burden
of crying out for sonorous life
in the midst of decay

Friday, July 28, 2006


Summer in San Francisco is full of free concerts in various parks, visiting family and friends, going down to So. Cal. for yet more weddings (I am in my dear Shannon's wedding next weekend at a Temecula winery), the (occasional) warm nights roaming the city or taking long walks around our lovely neighborhood, weekly outings with my sister or Chels, lingering at sidewalk cafes and restaurant patios over wine and delicious food.

Our community has likewise continued to thrive with our regular nights of long talks about our lives, creativity, God, pains and hopes, vision for the future. We share concerts, festivals, Matthew Barney at MOMA, Taize, drinks at neighborhood bars, nights of prayer atop Twin Peaks, movies, "The Office".

Work has been so good lately: I am experiencing a confidence and success that is invigorating. My incomparable part time schedule of three days a week, coupled with rare, amazing pay (for part time hours) and benefits, is no less than a gift. My work/life balance has been incredible and there seems to be a place for everything the more I settle into it. This "slowing down" has done wonders for my outlook, giving me a restful pace in the midst of city life.

My emotional undercurrent varies between shock and disbelief at how amazing this season of life has been, a true satisfaction and peace... and a numb sense of needing to "stir the pot", or turn things upside down lest I get too "settled", adventurer that I am. That constant inner voice I hear pushing and challenging me to reach out for those crazy dreams that are beyond my ability. Many of them have come true thus far - why not keep reaching? It never looks as I imagine, but in many ways, the waiting makes them so much better, as does the unexpected forms they take when they do come. The fine tension of being satisified (since I ALWAYS want to do more) yet never complacent is one I constantly pursue.

If I am honest, I am living the dream now. I am the city girl I always was at heart, creating genuine community in a place of constant transition and turnover, sharing passions, tears, calling and vision with my soul mate. It is more than I could hope and I am so grateful to be living it.

That ever profound sadness is always close at hand. I am keenly aware of death and brevity of life for me and for those I love, the loss of relationships I thought would always be there, the constant self-condemnation I battle with... these things bring heaviness, and yet wrestling with them, even sharing the tears of this weight with Dan, reminds me I am not alone in my deep pain as well as in my rich joys.

Monday, June 12, 2006

a San Francisco friday night

The boys and me. A balmy Friday night straight to the 'real' wharf (along the Embarcadero) from work.

Oysters. Vinegar. Cilantro. Fresh, briny juciness. Prongs scooping out the last bits from the shell. Coupled with a subtle white. Watching ships and ferries dock in the Bay.

A few blocks away. Down a velvet carpeted staircase to the basement of a swank 1930's Asian supper club. Blue back lighting. Festive cocktails. Wasabi vodka. Ginger mojitos. Steaming pork buns. Smoky pineapple ribs. Licking glaze off our fingers. Clinking glasses. Live jazz with a smoking B3 Hammond and skilled drums. The glow of red meshed with the blur of drink... the magic of musical notes pulsing throughout.

A perfect Friday night.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Light squeezes through vivid stained glass dioramas
candles dot the darkness
limbs spread out on a sea of carpet
pews lining the horizon
order and chaos combined

silence ushers in the reality behind the veil
violin and piano break the silence...
gently, soothing...
bringing clarity

pure and simple, her voice leads us into melody
weaving in and out of this mass
every age and color, melding into one
around the foot of the cross

we grasp it's edge, bow our head
weep or reflect or cry out
and thus unify
as one people
returning to their source
recieving the mystery of hope

Monday, May 08, 2006

six feet under

Maybe it's too soon to speak because I am only on Season Two of "Six Feet Under" (I realize I'm way behind from those who watched it while it was actually out - the series just ended). But it is stirring me in so many ways just from these first two seasons alone.

It is dark, macabre (what with the setting a funeral home and constant death the backdrop), gritty, intense, dealing with the toughest issues of life... and it is inspiring, hopeful, challenging, revealing, awakening.

I think that is the best word to describe the experience of watching it: it feels like an awakening. As the characters awaken from slumber, secrecy, silence, imprisonment in their own minds, so do you, the viewer. It explores dark, dusty areas, bringing them out into the light. It's like a wake-up call to impending death, appreciating all you have right now, examining how you want to live out your remaining days before they're gone. It inspires you to say things you haven't said to those closest to you (and thus often farthest from you). It illuminates the sincere desire of family members to connect and love each other and all the obstacles leaving them feeling misunderstood by one another. With the writer of the show authoring the screenplay for "American Beauty" (not my favorite but still thought-provoking - think that level of grittiness for the content of "Six Feet"), you can see parallels in the subject matter intensity and high level of honesty. No place is off limits and the show goes there: the afterlife, faith, religion, death, birth, love, sex, addiction, loneliness, secrets, release.

Francis Conroy is incredible as the mother... a bundle of conservatism, repression, denial and yet intense, passionate longing for love and connection, for openness with her adult children. In some ways, they see her attempts at becoming open as 'too little too late', or even as humorous. She invokes feelings of pity and compassion, while being completely relatable. A truly multi-layered, complex performance. She's heartbreaking and beautiful; you celebrate every moment of awakening with her, wanting her children to see her for who she is, yet understanding why they do not.

David's struggle with "coming out" as a homosexual, intense loneliness and a similar (to his mother) repression of feeling, anger, doubt and emotion, is like watching a constantly open wound, and is similarly awkward and painful. Sometimes you want to shake him awake as his movement is slow with as many (or more) steps back as forward. But there is empathy for his journey and some of the deepest inspiration of the show thus far in his moments of crying out to God. realizing how God sees him as opposed to the self-loathing with which he looks at himself. This makes his forays into meaningless sex and trying to cover his loneliness all the more pathetically sad. It's the most honest journey dealing with loneliness and homosexuality I've ever seen portrayed in film or TV by far.

My favorite has to be Nate. He is the (anti) hero, the solid rock, a bundle of passion and a carpe diem spirit. Of course, he's likewise flawed, volatile, angry and as of yet not revealing undealt with past issues... but he's in many ways the instigator of much of the awakening in the family. Their dad's death (in the pilot episode) is the initial instigator, though everyone but Nate 'deals' with it by denial and control of emotion. Though his outbursts are frequent, you can't help but feel it's healthier to feel what you feel as he does as opposed to the repression common in the Fisher family. Still, you see his own areas of hiddeness as time goes on. Everyone has their own secret world, even the most vocal. When Nate moves home, changes his life, committing to his family whom he was running away from before, it gave me this incredible sense of possibility and rebirth. I sense Nate cannot continue on as he is without reaching a breaking point.

Illeana Douglass expresses (in her wonderfully hilarious, poignant guest star appearance) that there is so much sadness in their home. It's buried deep and yet so is the potential for the truest love. I am rooting for a more full awakening for the Fishers, even as I do for my own family... and myself. I certainly relate to Nate as he must explode and live from his heart even when imperfect and his fervor is not reciprocated. Of course, I am also like him in that I have my own "secrets", not maybe literal secrets that I can name, but areas where my hidden 'demons' wrestle and fight, or my deepest passions bubble to the point of eruption. Places no one sees or can comfort.

The journey of this show is beautiful, heartbreaking, frustrating and hopeful. Like life. Like growing up. Like realizing the flaws and imperfections in your family and your favorite things. Like re-awakening from this disappointment to realize they are also as beautiful as you hoped. Like knowing that family are the people, the only people, who will always truly love you... no matter what.

May there be a way to break down walls one by one so that the purity of our hearts' desire leads the way, rather than our fears, shame and misunderstandings. May the barriers and secrecy that hold us back and keep us in bondage fall away, opening the floodgates. I don't feel this now but I am asking for it just the same. May Dan and I (our family), already characterized by pure openness, raw honesty and a profound tenderness, continue in truth and not veer from that path.

"When you grow up, you have to give yourself away. Sometimes you give your life all in a moment, but mostly you have to give yourself away laboring one minute at a time." Gaborn Val Orden

Thursday, April 27, 2006

i can't take it in

"Can't Take It In" - Imogen Heap
"Wunderkind" - Alanis Morissette
"Into the West" - Annie Lennox

my anthems this year. this year of change. of new decades and new horizons. of my girlhood and adulthood juxtaposed. death nearer. sadness infinitely more intense for the brevity of life. i feel that. longing and wonder... as intensely as ever.

i just danced wildy around the living room in the dark. felt the freedom. the rug soft under my feet. trying not to rouse the neighbors below but ultimately not caring. was completely out of breath after three songs.

moved to the fire escape for fresh air. the sun had long set but there was still that glow in the west, vivid degrees of blue coating the sky, common at this most magical hour of night. i played "wunderkind" and "can't take it in" from the living room, wafting out the window to my fire escape platform - my vista to the world. the living room glowed warmly with one candle inside, looking as inviting as a secret cottage found suddenly in the woods with a fire, slippers and tea ready after you've danced with the faeries.

but i remained outside with the invigorating breeze blowing my skirt up, the varying blues seeping into me, melding with my spirit. knowing i am the 'joan of arc', that 'groundbreaker', "destined to reign, destined to roam..."

claiming that promise of my youth that feels like a joke when examining my capabilities, but not when i realize God is still the same as s/he ever was. and this means... it is all true!!?!! i can hardly believe the beauteous mystery of the creator of my youth is IT. reality. the real reality. behind the thin veil i can see through any moment i stop and breathe. "i can't take it in..."

the stars began to peek out. the blues richening. fog dotting the peaks. the tower flashing comfortingly. then... "into the west" drifts through the air... and i weep. weeping with a smile. with joyous knowing. with surety that "the white gulls will call" and the "ship will come to carry me home." oh, that this beauty is but a hint. i tingle, i thrill, i shiver with the possibility of more in the afterlife.

then an old anthem from my early twenties: "only if" - enya. "for the promises, there is the sky/ and for the heavens are those who can fly... when there's a journey, you follow the sun/ when there is love and you reach for the one/ and for the broken heart, there is the sky/ and for tomorrow are those who can fly... if you really want to, you can seize the day/ only if you want to, will you fly away..."

still mine. is it true? has it been true all along? "when there is love and you reach for the one..." since the days i would listen incessantly to this song, "the one" has come. my most deepest of dreams came true... what else lies ahead? i can't take it in.

these songs, the soundtrack of my life. past and present. evolving. new. yet the same. a constant thread. i can feel the ocean over the hills. can't see it. but know it's there. and that is enough.

i come in from the magic of outdoors to the glowing cottage of home. one last song. "lazy days" - enya. not so much the lyrics but the music. it somehow returns me to carefree days of childhood. i soar. i remember that night over five years ago in LA when i pirouetted alone like a passion-filled ballerina in the dark to this song. it takes me there again and i think i shall go and dance more. now. because i believe. ____________________________________________________
are you ready to come with me?
to stop a moment in the intensity of our days and look at those varying shades of blue in the twilight sky?
to take in the fresh breeze?
to reflect on fog or cloud whisp dotting the sunset?
to hear a strain of music and let the notes overtake you with ecstasy?

let us peek behind the veil together. like lucy, walking through the fur coats in a plain, unromantic, confining wardrobe, suddenly finding ourselves beyond...

in the place we hoped against hope for. didn't believe in. cursed the thought of - too painful to contemplate. but that deep down inside we knew was there all along.

Friday, April 14, 2006


I am too tired to write. I want a nap. I love the breeze. I love Noe. The quiet (but for the occasional bus or train) corner of church and 30th. The coziness and intimacy of this city hood. I love my life.

I am working through issues. Fearful. Held back when I really want to break forth with passion. I peek out oft times, releasing just a bit of what wells up inside. I am not without fervor. But I have SO much more where that came from ... a world of fire to release.

If only I could see to the other side of this struggle and be there: At peace in my mind. No longer beating myself up, wishing I did or didn’t say things. Wishing I was bold enough to take the world by storm. In many ways, I am and I have. But this woman is ready for MORE.

It is time, I sense. Time for the part that got left behind. Time for a holistic return to my true self: to my girlhood audacity, my constant childhood state of wild creativity, my wholehearted, genuine intention and trust in others ... with the wisdom of an adult who see the world as it is, has fears and yet trusts just the same. Rises above to see the God who holds her and everyone together.

May I be the woman who holds beauty and pain tenderly in her palms, building sand castles with failure, skipping through fields with imperfection, soaring on waves with incompleteness. Making her home with freedom ... and allowing others to find the same in their own strange way.

I celebrate you, life, because even when I think I have reached stagnation or hoplessness, you turn around and surprise me with growth, newness, possibility and the promise of rebirth after every death.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Springtime Prayer

A poem of beauty shared with me recently (I did not write it, though wish I did):

A Springtime Prayer
We look down on all that is
Broken, stifled, worn
And see the huddled embryonic seed
Afraid of letting go
Unable to become

Until . . .

The sky opens
The rain soaks the waiting earth
The sun warms the possibilities within
And we see once again
That which feels new each year

The entire earth proclaims
Our resurrection!

The Sun looks on us with conviction
We are not meant for barrenness
That was only preparation
Our names are lush, verdant, growing

Our spirits push out
Away from these earthen caskets
We reach
We blossom
We drink the rain
And claim the Sun's rays for our lives

The entire earth proclaims
Our resurrection!

Our strength surprises us
Growing in shadows
Winding between the weeds
Nothing can stop our becoming for

The entire earth proclaims
Our resurrection!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I dreamt last night I was in a car driving all over my city of San Fran with really bad brakes... I couldn't stop at the bottom of the hills and was cruising around at alarming speeds. It seemed so real, I actually cringed when Dan & I were driving to work this morning and he stepped on the brakes.

We talked about what it could mean and immediately I said I felt as if my life is speeding ahead of me and I can't put on the brakes. I don't really want to, I suppose, but I feel as if things are swirling around me in thrilling mayhem and I can't quite grasp what is happening. It's not too busy: that's not it at all. It's steady, but well paced... better paced than ever before; full, but with things we love and have decided we want to commit to. We have weeded out a lot of superfluous activities and feel excited about everything we are involved in right now.

Despite this noticeable sense we both have this year, I feel such a mixture of expectation and fear, apathy and excitement. What will win out? Marriage is the greatest gift of my life and I am overwhelmed not only by the tenderness and passion of our love, but by how our calling and life direction is so being shaped together ... towards the same vision. What a rare gift! I can't help but feel sometimes that I am watching a film of the two of us together and it's one of the great love stories. It hardly seems real, such peace and love. It will always be the great beauty of my life.

This year has likewise brought delightful bouts of discipline (more than ever before, even if not near enough compared to my goals). Thank you, Chels, darling, for that. Meeting weekly in cafes all over the middle of the City (Mission, Noe, Castro), we have not missed one week in writing and working at a cafe to keep each other accountable by sharing it. These times I anticipate greatly.

Random opportunities I could never have made for myself keep coming way on the culinary writing front: being on the radio with food reviews, first paid itinerary gig, writing for a website, my website and all the help coming to me for it (Dan & Chels especially!) It's been crazy and out of my hands.

My sister is moving here - another untold gift I hoped for but would never have really expected!

Community is amazing: our group, our interactions, nights of wine, food and talks, films and music, Imogen Heap, SF Indie Fest, SF MOMA party night, "The Office" marathons, incredible meals out with rewarding conversation, and my dream of a birthday party that Dan threw for me which I will never forget. Magical, vibrant and memorable... Dan (and my dear friends) outdid themselves.

Music at church and things there in general are moving. I've cried without being able to control it two weeks in a row. Something big is moving.

Everywhere. I feel it, fear it and reach out for it all at once. There is so much more I cry out for in my gut: three things I keep pleading for, not because I deserve them, but because I am just a girl asking God for what her heart desires despite how ridiculous it may be. So much has been granted already. I cannot complain. Life here in SF is beyond what we could have hoped and this we marvel at constantly. I fear. I loathe my many mistakes and flaws. I feel lost and undertain daily. I feel like a gaping wound more often than not. I need more healing, more reconciliation, more wholeness. I need, I need. I lack, I lack. And in this lack, miracles are brewing.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Expectant Still

Remember that surge of expectancy I wrote about back in September (it's likely you don't and more likely you never read it but since I write this for myself more than anything...)? Since then, I have seen it prove true in a surprisingly vibrant way in community. Small miracles have occurred and long prayed for hopes are unfolding. I rejoice with every revelation and moment shared in our gatherings.

Towards the end of last year, I have reflected much on death and the brevity of life. It has been agonizing. Not that these are new thoughts but their weight is heavier as I grow older. Life is so sweet and rapid. I look at Dan sometimes as we lay in bed reading and I cannot imagine either of us no longer alive. It breaks my heart right down the middle and brings a pain I cannot describe. Each moment is so frail, sad and spectacular.

In this first month of the new year, I am feeling that surge of expectancy again. The sadness is still deep within in me as it always has been even when I was a girl. My sense of the magic behind all things beautiful was bittersweet as the best moments never lasted. My keen attuning to the view of God in the glorious variety of the world has always brought joy accompanied by a never-ending ache.

My expectancy is for a freer me who does not continue to wallow in self-laceration for all the things I do and say wrong. It's for coming into my calling in my thirties like never before. It's for creative, artistic fulfillment for my incredibly gifted husband - a coming into his calling - into our calling together in ways just hinted at up till now. It is for a wild abandon to my heart's cries... the me who dreams vibrant dreams and sees behind the veil into the majesty that is each breath, each sunset, each face I pass in the street, each night sky.

While I would not call this something I am expectant about, I sense that some of the greatest freedom and release ahead lies for me in coming to terms with beauty in the horror of the world, and ultimately, death. My secret vision of glory has always been in nature, music, people, the arts, miniscule moments that speak of the deep beneath the surface. But when it comes to destruction, pain, abuse, misunderstanding, war and death, my dreamer self wallows in a pain so agonizing there is no end. Looking for beauty in ashes is a tiring effort and most times I cannot see any reason to the senseless horror we humans inflict on each other and our world.

But I sense that if I can somehow come to a place where beauty and horror do not cancel each other out... where they are held by the same hand... then I can see those hints of glory in the blood and tears. I can see it in death and decay as I also see it in newness and life.

This is what I hope for.