3 busy days



Wednesdays are one of my fullest days. I have added a weekly hour and half meeting with Rev Jen and our two new members of our pastoral team, Amber and Sarah. I am finding these meetings rewarding and enjoyable. It’s fun to reexamine Grace’s approach via new eyes. Neither Amber nor Sarah bring a ton of Episcopalian experience with them although they are both obviously sharp and already skilled in their areas of spiritual formation (Amber) and youth ministry (Sarah).

Jen and I have added our weekly meeting back in as well. Combine this with me trying to use Wednesdays to do my planning and other tasks plus prepping for and executing the evening rehearsal, I am a tired little camper by the end of the day.

But exercising seems to have enlarged my energy pie a bit so that helps.


Eileen has been getting up and going to exercise classes on Mondays and Thursdays. I am usually a bit fatigued after Wednesday, but enjoy piano trio rehearsal on this day. Last Thursday evening, Eileen, Rhonda, and I drove over to Grand Rapids for a poetry reading. That was lots of fun. It was the kick-off the GVSU Fall Arts Celebration and was quite the event. There was a reception before hand with wine, cheese, hors d’oeuvres, and fruit. You could carry your wine into the room where the reading took place. There was dessert and coffee afterwards.

The poets were Kevin Young and Ellen Bass.

Young is who motivated me to attend. Both poets read from their work and I decided that listening to poets read their work may have limited interest for me these days. I admire Young’s work a great deal but I know from his podcast how interesting, educated, and articulate he is and would probably have preferred something which included poetry reading AND discussion or lecture or something.

I wasn’t as impressed with Bass, but this morning I opened up a book of hers that I interlibary-loaned and was blown away by it. It probably helped me to listen to her reading some of her own stuff.

Here it is:

Everything on the Menu
By Ellen Bass

In a poem it doesn’t matter
if the house is dirty.  Dust
that claims the photographs like a smothering
love.  Sand spilled from a boy’s sneaker,
the faceted grains scattered on the emerald rug
like the stars and planets of a tiny
solar system.  Monopoly
butted up against Dostoyevsky.
El techo, a shiny sticker, labeling the ceiling
from the summer a nephew studied Spanish.

Mold on bread in the refrigerator
is as interesting as lichen on an Oak—
its miniscule hairs like the fuzz
on an infant’s head, its delicate
blues and spring greens, its plethora of spores,
whole continents of creatures, dazzling our palms.

In a poem, life and death are equals.
We receive the child, crushed
like gravel under a tire.
And the grandfather at the open grave
holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face.
And we welcome the baby born
at daybreak, the mother naked, squatting
and pushing in front of the picture window
just as the garbage truck roars up
and men jump out, clanking
metal cans into its maw.

In a poem, we don’t care if you got hired
or fired, lost or found love,
recovered or kept drinking.
You don’t have to exercise
or forgive.  We’re hungry.
We’ll take everything on the menu.

In a poem, joy and sorrow are mates.
They lie down together, their hands
all over each other, fingers
swollen in mouths,
nipples chafed to flame, their sexes
fitting seamlessly as day and night.
They arch over us, glistening and bucking,
the portals through which we enter our lives.

From:  “Mules of Love”


Then there’s Friday. We recently received notice from the passport visa service we hired that the Chinese Consulate in Chicago was requiring me to present my application in person.


So yesterday Eileen and I left the house around 7:30 AM and drove to downtown Chicago. My confidence in apps was shattered. It turns out that the app we used to book our parking (Parking Hero) didn’t manage to convey that the entrance to the place was actually underground on North Lower Michigan Avenue. If it hadn’t been for a friendly delivery driver I don’t know if  we would have found it.

Then we had difficulty walking and using our GPS app to find the passport visa service. We ended up being conned by a charming street person who helpfully misdirected us and then asked for some money which we gave him. We only figured out later that he had no idea where the passport visa service was.

But we did manage to find it, pick up my app (already filled out by them), and take it a few blocks to the Chinese Consulate.

The consulate was on the crazy side. The place was packed when we arrived and after going through a very loose security check, I took a number. We sat and waited for a couple of hours. As the local lunch hour neared the calls to the Plexiglas windows, where processing seem to be taking place, sped up.

When I finally was called, the woman behind the Plexiglas examined my app in detail only asking me if my previous visa had expired.

Then she asked me to put my fingers on a little screen that took my fingerprints and also took another picture of me (there was already one of these in the app).

My best guess is this rigmarole might have had something to do with the fact that I put on my app that my profession was “Church musician.”

Before requiring me to come in person, the consulate had required me to sign a statement that I was not going to do any church stuff while in China. I did this, but they still asked me to come in person.

At the end of my session, the worker handed me a pink slip and informed me my visa would be ready any time after next Wednesday. The passport visa service person (Lindsay) had prepped us for this. “Just bring that pink slip back to me,” she had said, which is what we did. She said they would pick it up and mail it to us.

After that, we crashed at a little restaurant and discovered we were exhausted. Sooprise

A Personal Note

Part of what kept me motivated to go through with all this is the fact that I find myself missing my family. I like the fact that Elizabeth and Sarah have chosen unique places to live. And the California crew is also one that I like to go to see. But lately I have been feeling very disconnected from my loved ones around the world and in the USA.

Last night I had a very surreal dream. My Mom was alive and in a nursing home. She was weirdly unhappy about the fact that the Hispanics there were getting better service than she was. I yelled at her about this. Then later in the dream, several members of my family and I were watching a screen where somehow my Mom was playing out a surreal scenario that related to what she was thinking and going through. I remember thinking it was very cool and being afraid to try to record it because I might lose connection.

At this point in the dream, my daughter, Sarah, calmly told me that all I would have to do would be to return to how I connected in the first place. I found this reassuring.

Later my Mom and I discussed (in front of the rest of family there) her relationship to her mother. My Mom had flipped about the Hispanics and was blaming her own mother’s chauvinism for it. It seemed that she was deciding she didn’t love her mother. I told her it was possible to love someone and still hold them accountable. It was obvious to everyone I was talking about myself as much as Mom.

So anyway

So anyway, I had an excellent visit with Sarah and fam this year and enjoyed seeing the California branch. Now I look forward to having a bit more time with Elizabeth, Jeremy, and Alex in November.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.