Baptism: A Poem

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series
Written during my time on Iona

2013-06-10 10.24.44Baptism: A Poem

I met the shore,
greeting the sea I’ve
seen now from multiple angles,
but had yet to touch.

It seemed right that
this was the moment,
in this cove where
and flesh

This place where pair
after pair
of feet have trod.

To wonder and
pay homage,
to the Saint,
but more,
to the thin space
curled within
this cove.

I stoop.

People fill the rocks,
each of us in our own moment.
Mine with this rock curled in my hand,
and the water.

I took off my glove,
and dipped the tips
of two fingers into the salt bay.

To my forehead,
and my breast,
the cross etched when I was a wee one,
just four weeks old.

The crosses I’ve traced so many times
when I greet the ocean,
the Divine Movement
throughout my life.

In the name of the Creator,
Redeemer and Sustainer.
I commit again,
To a life of service,
to my God
and fellow humans.

The wave comes and covers my boot.

I rise and step back,
hesitant to leave this moment
of ritual.

Refocused on my life
in the world.

2013-06-10 10.16.59

Ode to Mary Dyer

Part of the Pilgrimage Summer 2013 Series


Mary, Oh Mary,
here your statue sits.
So calmly,
hands together in your lap,
as if open to receive.


Your head is bowed slightly,
face softened.

Both feet planted firmly on the floor,
back straight on the bench.


I wonder.
Maybe you’re sitting in
Quaker Worship,
waiting in silence for the Spirit to move.

You look so calm and peaceful.

I wonder.
Is this how you looked when
they taunted you and tortured you?
Was your face full of such grace
when your fellow Christians
persecuted you
because your spirit-filled Quaker ways
didn’t fit their Puritan sensibilities?

Oh, Mary.
You loved as a martyr.
You kept showing up.
When they kicked you out of Boston,
when they jailed you,
persecuted you
When they hung you in the square.

You put liberty of truth above your life.
You moved from white martyr,
to green,
to red,
with your blood.

We look to you.
Your face that has become so familiar,
as it sits on campus back in Indiana,
in front of Stout Meeting house.

I’ve looked at your slightly lowered eyes
and lowered mine as I sit.
I’ve looked to you as a feminine example,
a faith leader to follow and emulate.

But Mary, Oh Mary.
Seeing you here in Boston,
flanking the State House,
across from the memorials,
I remember.


You, Oh Mary,
you stood for truth and faith
in ways that I only want to read about
in history books.
When you were persecuted
by the moralistic fundamentalists
within your religious tradition–
you stood up.
You spoke.

When you were jailed and silenced,
you leaned into the silence,
gained strength and courage
and stood up
and spoke

Your hands gently cupped to receive,
the same hands that grasped and fought for justice.

Your eyes lowered,
The ones that flashed and sparkled
as you proclaimed uncomfortable truth.

Your feed firmly planted,
stood your ground,
walked many miles,
kept showing up,
emerging from the Silence,
witness for the Light.


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

The Shell

I spent this summer in Northwest Washington, reconnecting with my childhood state, spending time with family and friends, and working as a hospital chaplain intern. Each morning I would ride the bus into work and when I wasn’t nodding off, I would often write poetry as I searched for words for the experience. Here is one such offering. 

The Shell

The old shell is cracking,
sloughing off.
As I straighten my neck,
another layer slides,
crackling on the way down
to the

New skin is exposed,
some raw, quickly
chapped and irritated
by the elements.
Some fresh,
clear and clean,
glowing like a newborn,
with the elasticity and
tenacity of a toddler’s knees.
The rippling muscles of a
marathon runner,
pulsing underneath.

Rising up
Vulnerable wholeness
Exposed strength.

The Woodcarver by Chuang Tzu

This story was shared in our Spiritual Formation class on Thursday as part of a group process of meditation and reflection. It struck me and led to useful and powerful contemplation and insight about the things in me I need to name and let go of in order to let the Divine open up doors in front of me. I share it here in case it might speak to you. 

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

– Chuang Tzu
from The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton