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When the Game Breaks Down

We often speak about life as a game. If we’re going to succeed or “win,” we have to have determination, zeal, a willingness to fight and prevail against all comers. But tucked into the corners of that metaphor is also the sense that human life in society is governed by artificial rules or expectations—the kind…

Overthinking the Miracle

This morning the rains doused everything and then moved on. The clouds broke and the early morning sun broke through. Coming low off the horizon it backlit a wet landscape. I looked out and saw the bare and black tree branches dripping with tiny water droplets and in the brilliant sun they appeared as a…

The Glory of Nothing

In the first blush of the season of Epiphany, I think I had one today. I was talking to a friend on the phone last week. He said, I’m not really enjoying work. My commute to D.C is a bear. My work life is winding down toward retirement. But what am I good at these…

Falling Down a Wormhole

I’ve been away for a while. Some of you have asked where I’ve been. The thing is, I’m not sure. I do know that almost exactly one year ago my first grandchild was born, and for a wonderful time Dashiell and his parents lived with us during maternity leave. About the time they moved back…

Tell Me About Your Family

I was reading this week about Mary Karr, the poet and author of The Liar’s Club, the runaway bestseller from a few years ago. I was surprised once again by how normal it is to be “abnormal,” and yet how frightening that is to be. Karr was born in 1955 in Groves, Texas, a small town…

Cry of the Heart

I am on a plane. There are three mentally handicapped men two rows behind me. I saw them at the gate. Actually, I heard them at the gate—heard someone cry out, as if in sudden pain. I turned immediately to see what was the matter. It was a man whose body was torqued, whose face…

Tomorrow is Not Real

Yesterday I sat with a man who was worried. Someone he loved was sick. Chemo. A scan in six weeks would tell the tale. Meanwhile, the loved one was feeling fine. There were sick days around the infusion, but then it was as if nothing was wrong. Still. The scan in six weeks. Increasingly I…

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

There is a baby in my life. His name is Dashiell, born almost five months ago, my grandson. I spend a lot of time looking at him. I can gaze into his eyes for hours and neither he nor I am embarrassed about that and look away. He gives me a sense of peace, especially…

The Power of Awe

When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion. -Tao Te Ching Awe. This is the state of wonder and gratitude in which we are meant to live. To wake each day still unable to believe that we are alive. To wake each moment—if only we were willing!—and see the glory in a…

66,000 Crossing Guards

A few days ago I was sitting with a friend. “If you look at the world,” he said, “it seems to be unraveling.” There was the usual bloodshed in the Middle East, and then rival biker clans in Waco, Texas had come to blows, which escalated to chains, clubs and knives, finally to guns. Nine…

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