I was taught that faith was rooted in certainty. As a 7th grade confirmation student, I was told I “asked too many questions.” Contradiction, nuance, and doubt were discouraged. There was always one, straight-forward answer, only one way to find and experience God, and if you didn’t fit the mold, you lacked faith. You were Less. You were Them.
It took me a while to reject this concept, but over time, I began to accept that my faith and relationship with God thrives in uncertainty, in those wild margins where I was told not to go. I actually find great…
Confederate statues and flags are coming down across the country and the panicked cry to “save history” follows in its wake, as if history is not something we already carry with us.
As if history is made of metal and fabric.
My heritage is blood-red with a black swastika that can be worn as an armband. Explain to me why Confederate monuments or flags are necessary to your historical education or sense of self, and I will tell you of a photograph that is always in my periphery, no matter where I am. I have it memorized: the uniform, the…
How words and poems are getting me through the quarantine
I am like an Irish monk in the scriptorium, copying copying copying, building a nest of words, a web of sentences, wings of verse and simile. Every night (almost), I pull out my little blue journal and add another poem or quote or two or five- once I start, I find it hard to stop. My pen wants to keep tracing such lovely lines, such perfectly positioned jewels of syllables until I am drunk with them, intoxicated by beauty and heartbreak and emotion and utter, unbreakable humanness. …
A poem to embrace the silence.
The stillness of dawn-flecked mist
draped over winter lake water
or the pause at the kitchen window, mug in hand,
as snowflakes gently invade the sky
is not your type of silence.
Nor is it the hush of the house
the night after Thanksgiving,
when bedrooms exhale slow sleeping breaths.
Not the space between sound —
the rest in the chickadee’s plea for attention
or the silent note in the coda of the cat’s purr, for example.
This quiet is the charged, alert hush
when the baby stirs at two in the morning,
When my grandfather escaped his home, running from a future of Communist labor camps, he didn’t tell his family he was going.
Even as a child, Bulgaria had a strange, otherworldly pull for me, as I didn’t know anyone else who had a connection to it. The word and the place seemed so foreign and exotic, a Shangri-La that existed only in memory, not a real place on a map. But of course, it did appear now and then, like the city of Atlantis rising out of the sea. When cards arrived for my sister and me from family we…
From the air, in the dark 5:00 morning, Dublin is nothing more than a sheet of lights floating on water, glowing like a Christmas tree. I press my face to the glass, feeling the cold seep onto my forehead. The first time I saw Dublin, the sun was rising over the Irish Sea. The water was glossy and sugary pink, a confection for the eyes. Our plane dipped over a few small islands in the bay, as if it was bowing to the city before us.
This time, we’re arriving earlier. We left the sun behind somewhere around Greenland, but…
When I am stuck in my writing or mired by insecurity, I sift through my collection of Louisa May Alcott’s journals and letters, finding details of her writing life and taking mental notes in the hope that a spark of productive fire will leap onto me and ignite.
“Genius burned so fiercely that for four weeks I wrote all day and planned nearly all night….” she recalls in August 1860. …
There was once a man who decided to cut wood from an old mound on the Irish countryside. The mound was called a fairy fort, and no one would bother it for fear of angering the ones who lived beneath it. The man who owned the land protested the first man’s decision. “It’s a fort! I wouldn’t interfere with it,” he argued in disbelief. But the first man held firm. He cut the timber down and took it home to burn. The next morning, both men woke to find that nearly every cow they owned had died, down to the…