March Rain: A Haiku

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Letters from Margaret

It was the spring of 1976. I was 23, smart, fierce, on everybody’s most-likely-to succeed list. But as my undergraduate mentor had predicted, I was still a babe in the woods, having wandered 2,059 miles from the sheltering mountains of my childhood home. In the daytime, I swaggered around the Chapel Hill campus carrying piles of thick books on American history, picked arguments so I could wow people with my thesis that Southern liberals were always more Southern than liberal, collected accolades as I once collected gold stars.

At night, though, I was alone and tearful. Largely because of my thesis about the Southernness of Southern liberals, I had found no friends. I longed for those I had left behind in Globe and Tucson, with whom I could watch grainy foreign films at the Rialto, talk into the wee hours about “Birches” and Look Homeward, Angel, walk through the lane of orange trees near the dorm, so inspired by the intoxicating aroma that I tried out my atrophied right brain and waxed poetic. And of course I had never had a real boyfriend–only one clandestine relationship with the fiancé of a college friend, the first man who expressed a remote interest in relieving my frustrated virginity. And the situation in Chapel Hill was no different. It was 1976, after all, and too-bright women still stayed home on Saturday nights. Continue reading

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Choices, Choices: The Quandaries and the Quagmire of Identity Politics

My 56-mile commute to and from work has spawned the bad habit of scrolling through my emails at stoplights. A few days ago, I made a mental note to return to an article whose provocative title I noted only briefly; it went something like this: “Black feminists must choose whether to be politically black or politically female.” I have tried in vain to find the article, my failure due in part to the vast number of Google hits. However, my initial reaction stands. On the one hand, as a former graduate student in the history of American race relations, I have been shamed by my lack of currency in the field. On the other, however, this idea of “political X-ness” has forced me to consider once again the troubling consequences of what we now call single-issue and identity politics. And I must take a stand. Continue reading

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Lent and the Incarnation: Our Bodies, Ourselves

We who call ourselves Anglican are often labeled incarnationalists. With our Creator, we believe that what he made is good and acknowledge on Ash Wednesday, “You hate nothing you have made.” With Gerard Manley Hopkins, we exult that “the world is charged with the glory of God.” With N. T. Wright, we experience God’s kingdom “on earth as in heaven.” And with all who stand to reaffirm their baptismal covenant, we vow, with God’s help, to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” However, those in the pews tend to focus our understanding of the Incarnation mostly on the birth of Jesus—the Word made flesh—and thereby limit one of our surest means of Lenten contemplation and discipline. Continue reading

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Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned: An Ash Wednesday Vision

Let’s just stick to “thou shalt not kill,” or we’ll be here all day. Your sermon on February 12, based in part on Matthew 5:21-37, reminded me that there are many kinds of murder that won’t ever qualify as plot lines on Law and Order. Anger, insult, calling my neighbor a fool–since I’m confessing, I must admit not only that I have committed these sins, but that I do so at least daily. I scream and gesture at those who cut me off on the highway. I share with glee the laughable mistakes of my students and gossip with disdain about their most egregious behavior. I seethe with anger because dishes are piled in the sink or the car is not parked under the carport. Because of the dailiness or even the hourliness of these offenses, I can’t possibly number them or even remember them in detail. Naming some of them here has, however, been an exercise in humility as I culled the list for parallelism and panache. (Yes, you’re right. That was pride in humble clothes.) Continue reading

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. . . And a Few More (Pictures, That Is)

I’m afraid I scared off more than a few potential readers by the tongue-in-cheek title I chose for my last post. “Juste (a Few thousand) Words” was meant as a play on the title of my blog and the hackneyed phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words. There, I posted several photos taken over the last few years on a series of iPhones. I found even more to share, so here they are.

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Juste (a Few Thousand) iWords

Today, with both student essays to grade and a personal writing assignment of my own to complete, I decided to try something  little different for my recently neglected blog. I have been a camera snob since I picked up my first single lens reflex camera about 35 years ago. I have been lugging around lenses and tripods and multiple camera bodies in brands ranging from that first Miranda to Pentax and Nikon and Mamiya. And then the iPhone arrived on the scene. I have been the subject of more than one photo wearing one or two bulky digital SLRs around my neck–while taking a photo with my phone.

Not only does the phone offer the portability, convenience, and the opportunity to share memories quickly. I have found that the iPhone cameras from the 4S through my current 7 Plus can provide some stellar images I am proud to share despite their humble origins. I have collected some of my favorites here–a few abstracts, cityscapes and landscapes, color and monochrome, and one or two just for fun. Of course, we can’t forget the cat!

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The Many Gifts of Music

Preferring the feel and the smell and the fillable margins of real books, I had never listened to an audio book until I received one as a Christmas gift from a dear friend seeking to relieve the tedium I experience on my 56.9-mile drive to and from work each day. I have now listened to more than half of this gift, a perfect one not only because I now look forward to my daily round trip. It is perfect, too, because it has inspired me to reflect with joy on the central and fulfilling rôle music has played throughout my life. Continue reading

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The Tale of John Leak and His Foot of Clay

Once upon a time, spring had begun for the more than 4,000 people in a booming Southern town named after the Marquis de Lafayette. Trees and shrubs—forsythia, azaleas, redbuds, and wild cherries— provided a dazzling palette of yellow and pink and purple and white to paint the birthday of Annie Murchison on Palm Sunday, March 24, 1861. This girlchild had rosy cheeks, but she was fragile and of delicate health. Continue reading

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Waiting for God

Several days ago, I found a box taped up when we moved here seven years ago and never opened since. Amongst the knickknacks, costume jewelry, and small-appliance instructions I found there was this photo. Two friends hamming it up in over-the-top seasonal regalia sweaters before ugly Christmas sweaters became de rigueur. They had just come back from caroling–the one day their conservative Episcopal parish bent the Advent rule of contemplative preparation. They were waiting for cookies and mulled cider and more pre-Christmas jollity when I snapped this photo, preserved this moment in time. I expect you can see from the glow on both their faces their joy in the season, their love of life, the merriment they could barely keep in check.

What you can’t see is that beneath their Santa Claus hats, both of these smiling women were bald. This picture was taken during Advent 2004, when my friends Belinda and Lynn were both undergoing chemotherapy for particularly virulent malignancies (ovarian and metastatic breast cancer). But they still had the time and the energy–and the will–to sing “Joy to the World” and “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” to their homebound fellow parishioners. Continue reading

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