Only in vulnerability

The 12th Day of Christmas

In late afternoon the snow melted
on the back deck leaving dark grey
splotches to shine under the full moon
as winter chill descends

And snow will drop in just after midnight
ice crystaled flakes imbed themselves
into the forlorn slick, a shrouded veil,
meekly laid cover to disguise vulnerability

Our dark season likes to play games
with hope, draping itself leisurely
in sun-washed skies, clearly
beckoning me to leave behind my
obligation to dally in its pleasure

Under its grin I allow myself to imbibe,
hope to linger in its exhaled embrace
crisp under a teal canopy

If I tarry, neglect to ready myself
to the falling sun behind white
peaks outlined in the day’s exit,
I leave myself vulnerable

I leave myself vulnerable to hope
that time will bring a gentle touch
of spring to wrap me in sweetness
of newly scented gardens

I leave myself vulnerable in hope
to feel your kiss aflame on my lips
your pant upon my cheek
your hand in gentle grasp of mine

I leave myself vulnerable to hope
that I will meet You just as I am
wallowing in your goodness
under stars and sun, beneath moon
or inside rain, swirling within blizzard
or silent in your still-morning smile

Only in vulnerability do I leave
myself ajar to Your possibility

Suburban Solstice

The 9th Day of Christmas

It was the first day of the New Year.

Well, the new year according to most of the Western world. The New Year for Zorya started a few weeks prior at the Winter Solstice. Her friends, at least the long time ones, really didn’t know about this new journey she was on. Her family most certainly didn’t know. They wouldn’t understand, being staunch Roman Catholics. Tiptoeing outside the gilded box was not allowed.

She wasn’t flaky, as some would think. She just wasn’t a follower any longer. Her thinker self was beginning to show.

Zorya sat on the park bench. Snow covered her ankles. She should have thought about it before she left the house. She did wear a coat that zippered her tightly against the chill, but she didn’t like it. Zorya preferred to feel the cold on her skin. As usual her father complained as she was opening the front door for her exit.

She thought she was leaving early enough and was quiet enough not to shake up the household. However, the front door was right next to her father’s bedroom and he was up extra early.

“Where you going?”

“For a walk. Be back in about an hour.”

She always had to give the exact time of her return or else he would worry. Old age does that to you. And being an only child, even though she would be turning sixty soon, she was still seen as his “little girl” through his 94 year-old eyes.

Zorya tried her best to slink out the door without further confrontation.

“Put your coat on.”

“I’ll be fine. This sweatshirt is warm and it has a hood.”

Zorya liked hoods. It made her feel romantic, like those women of the past or in those Celtic pictures of pagan faerie-like goddesses in flowing gowns gliding through forests in sparkling sunlight with wild animals gently looking up at her, smiles on their faces.

Part of Zorya’s journey was taking her down this Celtic path. Confusion reigned. Zorya was a city girl, even though she now nested in the burbs, a choice made in deference to take care of her father. This was the closest she ever got to living in what other’s called nature.

She liked the sidewalks of downtown Denver. The bustle wasn’t crazy like London, her favorite city, or in New York where her other passion lived on stages under hot lights and costumes.

She saw beauty in the rush of traffic, a song some found annoying. Art galleries, restaurants, and the vast array of people gave her much to digest.

She grew up next to the off-ramp of I-70, a highway that split her neighborhood in half when she was five. The Denver Coliseum was nearby and her Januarys always included a visit to the National Western Stock Show, something she did with her dad.

She would ride her bike through the underpasses of I-70 around her Globeville neighborhood. Houses were built by early 20th century Eastern European immigrants. White washed gingerbreads were surrounded by neat sidewalks and fences with gardens now falling into disrepair after the highway fissure and the flight out.

She would pass the Russian Orthodox Church where her mom’s best friend Annie attended. The Polish Catholic Church was a block away from the Slovenian Catholic Church. Each having their own schools, hers being Holy Rosary Slovenian Catholic School, sat along her route, too.

She bounced carefully over bumpy railroad tracks that led car after car with coal and other goods through her neighborhood. Her favorite sound was and still is the far off moans of train warnings in early morning hours.

She would see the field and bleachers where softballs flew through the air on hot summer nights and of course, there was the swimming pool. Oh, the outdoor swimming pool where she spent her summer mornings in classes and afternoons in floating bliss.

This was Zorya’s nature. The smelter down the road and up the hill belched smoke. The packinghouses whose waste flowed into the river were beginning to shut down, another flight for more modern digs. The Pespi plant bottling brew that her mother would eventually learn to guzzle instead of Coors.

And the number 16 bus that would stop on the corner near her house next to the bar and gas station and lodge dancehall just outside her bedroom window. She would take the bus by herself on Saturday mornings to walk up and down 16th street gazing in department store windows, The Denver, May D & F, Neusteter’s, and when she was a teen, Fashion Bar.

Then she would go to the Paramount to see a cartoon and a movie, sometimes she would stay for the second feature, too. Finally, there was the root-beer float stop at the Woolworth lunch counter and back home again without anyone ever having to worry about her safety.

She’d watch the factories spewing air-born chemicals and the grey-green Platte River flowing by her bus window on the way home as the sun began to set behind the Rocky Mountains.

Zorya’s nature came to her on bone-chilling mornings when her dad got up through the night to flood the tiny back yard making an ice skating rink for her and her friends. Her mom bought ice skates in all sizes at the Goodwill store to share with any who needed them.

She knew nature’s roar when the Platte River flooded and the police walked up and down Washington Street shouting through their bull-horns to evacuate as the water overflowed its once placid and feculent home.

There was beauty in all of her city-born images. Not everyone could understand this, but poetry and spirit lived there, too.

Presently Zorya made her home next to houses painted and formed much like one another except for a few twists and slants here and there. She appreciated the open space a few blocks away even though it was lit up by lights from the adjoining elementary school at night and recently glowered upon by the new teacher training building placed on the vista on top of the hill that was barren when they first moved in.

“Alllll right, but you’ll get sick,” her father droned and sighed hoping to guilt her into compliance.

So without arguing and to save time she slipped on her fluffily padded, ankle length winter coat, specifically purchased to remind her of the flowing robes of the Celtic saints.

She needed to work on this image.

Zorya knew she was way off in her perception, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it yet. It could be her Slavic soul. Her mother once told her that were from gypsy stock in Poland. She needed clarification, some new understanding. And that was what part of her mission on this first day of the Suburban New Year.

Zorya changed her mind about telling her father the exact time of return.

“I’ll be back later,” she replied curtly as she shut the door, not with a slam. The seal wouldn’t allow a slam. But she closed it tightly with a definite, “I’m taking a stance.”

On the bench, Zorya stared at her feet. The snow was packed inside her shoes. She should have worn socks. Her hands were nestled inside her coat pockets, but the hoodie and fluffy coat hoods rested on her back.

She looked up as the horizon sky beckoned turning a magical shade of gold. Usually, this time of year the sunrise brought reds bleeding into dark blues and then fading into purple that melts into a bright Colorado azure. Today there were no clouds to paint.

Today the sky was golden.

As she looked around her, the grasses, now tan and crisp, held tiny cups of snow balanced on top of their heads. The weeds deepened to a courtly gold. The snowfield sent diamond sparks and her breath was smoky rising into the air.

Here Zorya began to feel again.

The cold hurt.

That was okay because she was able to take the other hurts and mix them together, finally able to release them. She took a breath filling her lungs as deeply as she was trained. An actress, if practiced, breathes from the bottom of her lungs giving her voice resonance and strength.

Zorya imagined her weaknesses, guilt trips, disappointments, and pain flowing into the cold that turned water into ice. They mixed together forming a crystal. With a quick puff from one more inhale, she blew the cancer away. She imagined it pushing high into the morning air blazing backlit in the golden rays. Then all at once she stopped her breath and it plummeted to the ground, shattering into millions of icelets scattered over the snowfield ready to melt as the afternoon warmed.

But Zorya didn’t stop there. Releasing the negative was just the start. Now came time for gratitude. She needed to remember the good and give thanks. She remembered and was grateful for wisdom from the priest who recognized the bard in her and gives her room to share. The joy from the songbird who lifts her spirits, a soul sister who outshines the morning rise. The healing hands of the shaman sister whose energy flows through and heals. The smiles and the laughter of her students. The love and tenderness of her husband. The wagging tail of her dog.

The words of the Word and the new vision of Sophia entering her life.

And, of course, the concern and love of her dad.

These and more she released one by one in a chant through the morning air. This time they did not fall and shatter. Each rose higher and higher into the ether until, like the spark of stars bowing to morning glow, flashed and disappeared.

She was ready. Zorya had room once more. And the New Year began.




Author’s Note:

Sometimes, no, most times, I never know what is going to come out. Instead of a poem, a story on this 9th Day of Christmas. And two posts in one day, my apologies.

Today our writing group was planning on meeting. But for the icy streets and snow, we decided to be safe. We tried Skyping but my old computer and lack of tech skills made us settle on e-mail.

Our prompt was garnered from Bonnie Neubauer’s Story Spinner:

Setting: Inside your head

Starting phrase: The sky turned a magical shade of gold.

Words you must include:  romantic, zipper, flaky and drone

And that’s how my story was spawned. Peace.

10 Resolutions from Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life

The 8th Day of Christmas


Author’s Note:
I spent yesterday, January 1 not writing. I read and rested and thought. A quiet snowy day, very cold. A good rest day.

I am posting this from Tweetspeak’s Citizens for a Saner Internet and Life as my 8th Day of Christmas post, my new year’s resolve, and a hopes of helping others to a more positive, luscious life this year.




10 Resolutions from Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life

We resolve to:

1. Consider sharing three beautiful posts for every negative post we feel we must share.

2. Share angry posts only if they significantly contribute to an important conversation.

3. Understand anger as important, a red flag type emotion, that loses its strength if all we ever do is feel angry.

4. Write headlines that are intelligent, witty, or intriguing without exhausting our readers by frequently playing the “outrage card” to get click-throughs.

5. If we feel we want to listen to an angry Internet conversation for what it may be able to teach us about a subject, we resolve to do so silently for a “waiting period,” in a stance of learning rather than one of defense and counterattack.

6. We will not link to attack journalism from our websites, so as not to give more power to the writer or website of said journalism.

Related, we will not link to or re-share iterative journalism, which is a sloppy form of journalism designed to deliver a “scoop” that may have no foundation yet in truth.

(Insider tip: you know you are being “played” through iterative journalism when you see its typical words and phrases: “according to a tipster, hearing reports, escalating buzz, is reporting, likely, still a mystery, reports are”)

7. Consider ways to move beyond the “page view model” of Internet sustainability (which is one reason attack or sensationalist journalism is often pursued by individuals and websites, because it can result in high page views, which can translate into staying financially sustainable. Yes, it might be time to actually subscribe to The New York Times!).

8. Get offline for periods of rest—optimally, one offline day a week and getting offline by a certain cutoff time in the evenings—and use this time to cultivate face-to-face relationships, read, exercise, or otherwise interact with the world around us (we recommend cinnamon toast as part of the deal ;-) )

9. If we are unsure about our own angry or sensationalistic post on a subject, we will first pass the post by trusted friends who come from different viewpoints, in a more private setting, before deciding whether to hit the publish button.

10. If we have been online for hours and are finally simply “surfing” because we feel lonely or unfocused, we will get offline and spend time with people face-to-face, read, exercise, play, or delve deeply into a new interest-area… one that will seriously challenge us and open up new avenues for our learning and our lives.

My poem for the 9th Day of Christmas will soon appear. Blessings.


5th Day of Christmas10891903_10204500304179567_2726705124056858368_n

I hear the neighbor scraping
snow from our sidewalk,
it is an act of gratitude for
use of our driveway, although
we never require repayment

I would prefer to allow snow
to pile up for a little longer,
to see its pure white face
untouched, at peace, before
innocence is lifted away

But snow continues to
fall, covers the neighbor’s
scratch marks, leaves an icy
under glaze for unwary feet
braving the frigid storm,
unaware of hidden danger

This in-between time, between
the years, between dark and
lightening of days I watch
in gratitude flakes covering the
ground, a hushed season’s rite

Sun hidden in between infinity
and cloud, yet light reflects,
diffused, remains bright enough
to find my way through the day
if I were to venture out

In between me and you I
diffuse your light, your
whispered words of grace,
boundaries dissolve in your
patient hands, you await me

A Winter Prayer

The 4th Day of Christmas
Photo by Tom Neyland

Photo by Tom Neyland

Down the path just a little way
is my destination
I travel the same road each day
knowing the route
And yet when snow covers hiding
my guideposts
and shadows play games to make
me unsure
I know you do not abandon me
on my course

On this day of sun and snow and
winter chill
In this life of uncertainty I know
you are here
I wear your coat wrapped in
Kindness dresses me in gentle
Patience gives me time to
And I do not seek more than I

I navigate this day in wisdom
and gratitude
I am fearless because we are





Author’s Note:

A special thank you to my friend Tom Neyland for the inspiration and use of his photo.

One of today’s readings, from

Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSVCE)

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[a] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[b] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[c] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.



The 3rd Day of Chirstmas

A fire burns low, blue hot as shiny spandexed
riders speed past. A tin bears sufficient fuel,
warms the cold, bides time until the traffic ebbs
near the river winding through the city. Here this

tea party offers no scones or steaming earl grey.
There is no crown for the guest of honor, no guest
of honor at all. The music of the wren tucked
safely high into a corner of the bridge, an
afternoon’s diversion. As the flame dies out,

laughter barrels across an austere night with stories
wide. A bottle passes from hand to hand, sharing
the only gift to warm stiff bones and hearts isolated
in the chill. Stephen’s crown a touchstone. The wren

who nests with family dear a paragon. His martyr’s
words ring through my days, make room for
those forgotten. I pack my box this Boxing Day,
not with trinkets, but with his humanity to be
freely given away.




Author’s Note:

Well, the best of intentions get sideswiped sometimes.

I am re-posting a poem from last year’s 12 Days of Christmas poetry project. I hope to be back on track later today for the 4th Day of Christmas.

Some Storms

The 2nd Day of Christmas10520526_10204476131015253_31300232393359936_n

Some storms blow in
make their presence known
cover ground and fill sky so
completely with their fury
white and cold suffocate
all under siege

Today a snowy mist
put down minimal icing
quiet enough to hear your
breathing on earth
a whispered I am

I hear your presence in the
gentle fall of flakes sitting
on black asphalt, a deep
call within to listen
then see, and feel

I should stand just once
sans coat and shoes
palms open to the sky
bare feet against the ground
allow your wintery rime to
cover me the same as I
assent to summer sun

I only see stars when
dark night shades the sky

I understand your warmth
only after I have known cold




Author’s Note:

A reflection on becoming quiet, learning to listen, and Ferguson MO. Thank you Ryan Taylor, Tall Monastic Guy, and those with you who are learning to listen and helping me to do the same.

#5 of Ten

10th Day of Christmas/January 3, 2014

Today my list is full. I drive the highway light of traffic,
the Christmas season keeps one last  workday
in reverence. He sits beside me bundled against the
cold not having understood the weather report, sixty

degrees today. Our excursion to the cemetery on roads
of his memory, his television repair shop, his church,
his family house in Globeville, a fifty minute trip one way.
The Polish church steeple the only landmark able to peek

above the concrete wall protecting it from speeding cars.
Our monthly visit to mom waited for three. Familiar
words accompany the ride, same stories told each
time this map is followed. “Just in case” a folded walker

sits as a third passenger in the backseat, his cane tucked
next to him in front. Legs unsure rise up steps too tall
into the mausoleum. I move summer flowers from
the vase, three months too long a stay. A winter bouquet

slips into the place of reverence. We say prayers, five
Our Fathers and five Hail Marys, and mom’s daily verse
to Our Lady of Czestochowa. Today it’s not enough. He
wants to stay longer, but can’t figure out good reasoning.

We gather again inside the car making our way to the
dry grass place of his mother and father. No flowers here,
no headstones mark the spot, but he knows where they
lie. At the intersection before the main road, to the right.

He will not walk the bumpy sod hoping to trim the grass
growing over the plaques set deeply into the ground so
lawnmowers can cut the summer lawn with ease. He looks
through the window of the car and tells them he loves them.

With one bow of his head, as if to say, “Okay, I am ready,”
another bow follows, and then, “Let’s go.” He has their
permission. He says it will be his last visit, the next one will be
to stay. We buy hamburgers and fries for lunch on our way home.




Author’s Note:

You will notice, if you are reading my poems, that I have jumped from the 4th Day of Christmas to the 10th Day of Christmas. My hope was to write from the first Sunday in Advent through the 12th Day of Christmas, with one poem for each week of Advent and then 12 poems for the days following. I hoped to use traditions in the Catholic church as inspiration. I wished to avoid the song and wanted to focus on the saints and feasts.

However, I found that this path did not lead me to inspiration, but despair. The saints became saints because of their difficult journeys. It was the Feast of the Holy Innocents that brought my journey to a halt. It took me days to find something to celebrate for that day. So I found myself not joyfully celebrating this time, but avoiding my computer. It has been a bit of a dry time post Christmas day.

Today’s poem began as  Litnay of 10 in a nod to ten lords a leaping, with a list of ten things I needed to accomplish. But the day had its own path and I followed it.


2nd Day of Christmas/December 26th

A fire burns low, blue hot as shiny spandexed
riders speed past. A tin bears sufficient fuel,
warms the cold, bides time until the traffic ebbs
near the river winding through the city. Here this

tea party offers no scones or steaming earl grey.
There is no crown for the guest of honor, no guest
of honor at all. The music of the wren tucked
safely high into a corner of the bridge, an
afternoon’s diversion. As the flame dies out,

laughter barrels across an austere night with stories
wide. A bottle passes from hand to hand, sharing
the only gift to warm stiff bones and hearts isolated
in the chill. Stephen’s crown a touchstone. The wren

who nests with family dear a paragon. His martyr’s
words ring through my days, make room for
those forgotten. I pack my box this Boxing Day,
not with trinkets, but with his humanity to be
freely given away.

Author’s Note:

This second day of Christmas celebrates St. Stephen. You know the one good King Wenceslas emulated on this feast day? The twelve days of Christmas have many traditions tied to them. One is St. Stephen of the Acts of the Apostles, first martyr for the Christian church. Another tradition is Irish, the wren who fiercely builds a nest for a happy family and can even at times be heard in winter. Boxing Day is also celebrated across the world this day.