Penny: Ode to my Vehicle

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This is a piece I wrote about my 1995 Honda Odyssey last spring during a writing prompt in class. Having just driven her 1,100 miles from Indiana to Colorado and then another 1,200 miles from Colorado to California to start a new adventure, it seemed appropriate to honor her with blogging this as part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.


The paint moved beyond “beginning to peel” years ago, back in our Colorado days.  This morning as I chipped the packed snow off the windshield, I noted the growing patch of silver emerging from the green paint on her hood.

She’s been with me a long time, my ’95 Honda Odyssey. I bought her in 2001, right after college, alongside my first full-time job and my very own apartment. I named her Penelope, in hopes she’d embody the steadfast character Homer chronicled so long ago. She goes by Penny and is still running some 270,000 miles later.

Sometimes when I look back on the past 12 years I feel lonely. Eight homes in five different states, three jobs, and now graduate school.  I’ve been living a life that edges on overload in the “new and interesting opportunities” department. I’ve left homes and communities that are dear to me and started new with tentative taproots. I’ve explored numerous places and many miles. Some on planes and trains and buses, most in my fading green Odyssey with her sun-roof and flip-down backseats that accommodate a whole summer’s worth of living supplies without a fuss.

In 2010 I left my home where I had put down eight-year-old roots at the base of the Rockies. In saying goodbye, the dearest five-year-old gave me a picture he’d drawn. It was of him and me holding hands and he insisted it hang on my ‘fridge.  Bowing to the realtor’s advice for salability, the refrigerator was to stay “clutter-free and neutral.”  So I took the Scotch tape out to the parking lot and hung that crayon offering on the passenger glove box, where it brought close the love for a few years to come.

I’ve been with Penny through two timing belts, and a few batteries, an ongoing saga with cables, new brakes and ball bearings, and more oil changes than I can count.  She’s driven me through relationships beginning and ending, career changes, loosing grandparents, long-term illness, starting graduate school, my parents’ divorce, and the weddings of more friends than she can count.

I look at her graying hood as I pat her dash and whisper,
“Just get us through grad school Penny. A few more years and then you can rest.”


Hopping Across the Pond

2013-06-06 00.14.04Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This evening I’ll be getting on a plane with classmates from seminary, and a wonderful professor, and heading to the UK for our Cross-Cultural Course. 

We will be exploring Celtic Christianity, worship, music, community living, and inner-city ministry. Starting at Iona Abbey and then moving our way south to spend time with a few other communities and finish off with a workshop with John Bell.

I’m going off grid for the trip and am looking forward to leaning into the rhythms of nature and the community around me, without the distractions that are usually so easily at my fingertips.  I am taking my camera, sketchbook and journal, and I look forward to sharing yarns and yarns with you when I return at the end of June.

New York Yarn

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

2013-06-01 14.00.282013-06-01 14.00.35

Well…that basically tells the story…

After this failed attempt I didn’t have time to search out another yarn store during my short and glorious time in New York.

But the time there was deeply meaningful and needed to be marked.  So the day after I got back to Indiana I had dinner with a dear friend who wanted to know all about my travels. After telling her about my time in the city, the vibrant shows I took in, the powerful swirling of Spirit-led connections and opportunities at The Riverside Church, and the deep joy and and inspiration I found worshiping with St. Lydia’s Table, we agreed that these needed to be marked in the pilgrimage shawl. So, we went to Hobby Lobby.
2013-06-04 19.51.48

I know…neither small, nor local, nor overflowing with culture, and connection. But full of beautiful yarn none the less. And accompanied by fabulous conversation as we roamed the aisles and found a fancy brocade to represent some aspects of my trip and a glorious vibrant rainbow to represent others.

2013-06-04 19.40.522013-06-05 21.29.42

These have yet to be woven into the shawl, as the last 24 hours have been filled with paying bills, doing laundry and re-packing. But they are sitting in a nice stack to be taken on the long long plane ride tomorrow where I will weave them in and honor the time in New York City.
2013-06-04 19.37.35

Vibrancy in NYC

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series 

I spent four days in New York and they were overflowing with gifts and beauty, inspiration, and unexpected blessings. 

A few highlights:

~The incredible hospitality of Russ and Carol, who welcomed me in as a friend of a friend and shared their beautiful home and interesting lives with me.

2013-06-01 10.20.36
View from the beautiful room I stayed in

~Spending my first evening in the city at the ballet with Benjamin. I’ve wanted to see Don Quixote since I was about eight years old. The show was all that I’d hoped for and more. Great student seats in the Opera House, incredible costumes and set, and the dancing. Well American Ballet Theater…what can I say, the dancing was amazing. 2013-05-30 18.52.292013-05-30 18.57.21

~Coffee with a church planter in Brooklyn. Hearing her stories and walking the neighborhood and seeing the street art.

~Enjoyed live music on the subway, along with many other interesting people watching incidents. 2013-05-30 22.21.52

~Had a lovely wander through Central Park, complete with a Central Park hot dog, sans bun.2013-05-31 14.37.26 2013-05-31 14.40.15

~Enjoyed a night out downtown. Drinks with my dear cousin and heart-to-heart catch up. And then dinner with a childhood friend, swapping life stories and reconnecting after many years.
2013-05-31 17.09.14

~Peaceful relaxation crocheting, reading, and writing in Riverside Park.

2013-06-01 15.45.23

2013-06-01 16.00.21

~Seeing The Trip to Bountiful on Broadway (again, love student rush tickets). Laughed and cried and enjoyed the show with the new friend who happened to sit in the seat next to me.

2013-06-01 19.51.39 2013-06-01 22.28.22 2013-06-01 22.27.41

~Being invited to lead a Bible study on Emanuel Swedenborg and Swedenborgian thought at The Riverside Church, and attending the service and meeting people there.

2013-06-01 16.03.172013-06-02 15.17.13

~Worshiping with the community at St. Lydia’s Table, a dinner church in Brooklyn that I’ve been following online for a few years and my purpose for going to NYC. It was an absolute joy to be there in person and see this beautiful model of church, and to connect with the Emily, the founder and pastor and soak up her church planting wisdom.

2013-06-02 21.11.422013-06-02 21.11.55 2013-06-02 21.12.00A soul-feeding time all around.

Thank you New York City! I’ll always come back…  

Boston Yarn


Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series

Though I already had yarn from Massachusetts, I had yet to find yarn in Boston. Not because I hadn’t looked. In fact the yarn shop that got the best reviews was right down the street from where I’m staying. I was excited to find that fact, until I walked by and learned from a small sign on their front door that they were to be closed until mid-June for renovations.

This was not the only yarn shop in the city though, there were a few others that popped up, and I kept them in mind as the week went on. But it wasn’t until my last evening in Boston that I was out and about and had the chance to go find it.

My aunt and cousin and I met up for dinner and decided to go on a ramble before we ate. After checking out some of the sights on Beacon Hill, we headed towards the Commons and the Gardens and I asked how they’d feel about adventuring six or seven blocks past the Gardens in search for yarn. They were both agreeable with this plan and we found ourselves walking down Newbury Street. My aunt pointed out the block where the Swedenborg Book Store used to be back in the day, now blending into a row of high-end shops.

And in and amongst shoes stores and men’s suits, tucked down in a bright basement space, we found Newbury Yarns. I knew from the website that the owner had a great story and it seemed like a community-based spot. We were greeted at the door and welcomed in not only to the shop, but with the information that that evening they were having a “Yarn Tasting” and the artist responsible for the irresistible hand-dyed alpaca that was tantalizingly displayed near the front door was there.

It only took me a few short strokes to fall in love with a baby alpaca, multi-colored blend that just asked to be touched and stroked on one’s cheek. I dutifully looked through the rest of the shop, a lovely collection of yarns to be sure, but nothing quite measured up to that alpaca. It was a little over my $10 limit, but surprisingly not much more, and the artist herself was there. It had to be the one.

I went back and met the artist, who didn’t seem that interested in my yarn collecting story, and hesitated when I asked if I could get her picture, saying it was a bad hair day. I will respect her hesitation and not post her picture here. I thanked her for her artistry and purchased the locally raised, hand dyed yarn with appreciation.

And happily walked out with a soft and beautiful addition to the tapestry.


Traveling Sacred Space

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series

This chair has taught me. It has held me these last two years as I have explored spiritual practice. In this chair, I did my homework for Dr. Carole Spencer’s Spiritual Formation and Personal Practice class. Part of our homework: 1/2 an hour a day of spiritual practice. The Daily Examine; an evening reflection of gratitude and self-examination. Sitting in the silence. Training myself little by little to be still and know God. Reflecting on scripture or sacred texts, and journaling. Each practice done with various degrees of consistency and success. More and more regularly as it slowly moved from “have to” to “get to.”

Spirituality and Peacemaking class with Dr. Lonnie Valentine broadened the definition of “spiritual practice.” I played my guitar, walked and sat in nature, did yoga, wrote, and started painting. This chair where I picked up paints and found a form of prayer.


Next to this chair you would find my craft table. Two stack of plastic tubs, the closet door I took off the hinges, all disguised with fabric, (the magic elixir for a decorator on a budget). This table held my paints and brushes, paper and pens. Ready and waiting for me to sit down in the chair, set the timer and melt into my time set apart.
The time always started with lighting a candle, and breathing a prayer of remembering the sacred at the altar. The altar that shifted and changed with flowers and shells, icon, roaches and art. Always holding the possibility of invitation to sacred space.

This chair. This table. This altar. My sanctuary. This sacred space and time that has become food and lifeline, sanity and gift.

And now it’s time to pack up and move. To leave the chair behind for the next tenants and to pack my large tablets of paper and altar art into boxes. I know it’s not really the physical things that make things sacred. Yet there’s something sacred in that which we dedicate as such. And there’s something that happens when my fingers guide that color-filled brush to the paper, the pencil to the journal page, the sound of the wick bursting into flame.

And so, I’ve been gathering. And when the cloths came down and the boxes sealed, two little pouches were already carefully stowed in my suitcase. My traveling spiritual practice kits.

Ready to be unpacked wherever I am, breathed on, and opened into the container for a time set apart.

Robin’s Egg Blue

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.
I saw the glint.
Robin’s Egg Blue
in the grass under
the cherry tree.

I stopped
crouched down
and picked up the
tiny half-shell.
And cradled it
in my hand.

As an eight year old,
I found a similar treasure.
I remember wondering:
How could something so fragile,
so precious,
be tossed out of the nest.
As if it didn’t matter.
To be crushed by my
black rubber boot,
had I not stopped and
noticed it.

I had taken the eggshell home
and placed it carefully
in a small jewelry box
and named it among my
eight year old treasures.

Today I stop,
as I walk between
dropping off a final project
at school, and
packing another box
at home.

And I hold this eggshell in my hand.

At thirty four and on the brink
of transition,
it makes more sense to me.

This shell has not been discarded
or tossed out of lack of reverence,
or care for its use.

This shell held,
with strength,
and wisdom,
a little bird as it grew,
and was prepared.

This shell created the
boundaries and space
for the bird to become
who it is and then
patiently released
as it was pecked at,
for the bird
to emerge.

Then, its work done,
the pale blue eggshell,
ever so gracefully,
drifted to the earth,
ready to be mulched
back into the cycles,
a witness to the container
from which the bird
would fly.

2013-05-06 16.03.56

Loosening Threads


Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 series.

In order to go on pilgrimage, you must leave somewhere. Be it physical or metaphysical, in order to go, you must leave. And in leaving, that place becomes part of your journey.

I have begun weaving the stitches (crocheting actually, but that doesn’t sound nearly as poetic) into the pilgrimage prayer shawl. As I have final visits, pack boxes, sit in a classroom one more time I stitch in snapshots.

I try to pay attention as I drive these street that have become so familiar to me over the past few years.

The Milk House mural at the end of my ally. Covering a whole wall with the words, “The Most Convenient Connivence Store in town.”

The cherry blossoms and magnolias, the iris and daffodils, overflowing and reminding me this is my third spring here.

The way the path curves around under the bridge in the gorge, and my favorite tree root, twisted into a seat, poised on the edge, leaning over the stream.

The red gate through which I walk for the healing of acupuncture and the wisdom of spiritual direction.

The walk to school, where to cross, through two alleys, one jaywalk on a quiet day. And the crosswalk where I continue my delicate battle of teaching Richmond drivers about pedestrian rights without getting run over.

Clear-Creek Co-Op and Roscoes Coffee shop, Firehouse BBQ with their pulled pork nachos that are always lunch AND dinner. Incomparable in size however (though far superior in ingredients and taste) to the nachos from Joe’s Pizza which come an a full-sized round pizza pan, loaded with chips, chopped pepperoni, ham and melted cheese. There was the night Hoot and I sang there, and the night we broke out in a polka. And Pete’s Corner Cafe where I had lunch with Carole today, as we have many times before, eating the burger with no bun and hearing from Pete about the newest recipe he’s trying.

People’s faces fly by my eyes as I think of the rich conversations over theses tables, cup of tea or glass of wine in hand.

Threads of this life in this town.
Do I un-weave them?
Or simply loosen their daily hold?
I thank them for being the fabric of a season.