Monday, December 29, 2008


Christmas 2 Angels

Monday morning comes. And with it the sun. Snow, here just a week ago, is melted away. The day feels like spring. Fresh, new. I'm almost ready to come out of hibernation. Almost ready to write. Almost.

In the meantime, I was so delighted when I saw Ann's Christmas tree and quilt, worn wooden floors and fireplace, that I felt inspired just the tiniest bit. Not to write but to say in pictures... this is my home, this was my Christmas. Almost.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Banister

Christmas Mice

Christmas photos by L.L. Barkat.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mary, "Did You Know?"

Wounded Christ

I walk through the Louvre the way a child walks a path. I'm looking for the odd rock, the gems no one else is really looking for. Yes, I'll do the obligatory Mona Lisa, but my sensibilities are not with the crowd's. Whatever strikes me, I photograph. I'm terribly irresponsible when it comes to looking for the name of the painting, the painter, the period.

In the back of my mind, my blogworld urges me. Take pictures of beauty, pictures of force, pictures with potential for holiday use.

This wounded Christ arrests. I snap the picture, thinking, Easter.

But no, he would not wait 'til Easter. He wants to be here, at Christmas. And his mother too, swooning to the left. She wants to say, Did you think that birth was an easy thing? Did you know that it begins with pain, wraps up struggle, ends in death? Did you know?

I did not want to know, Mary. I wanted to believe that birth was an easy thing.

This is the danger of walking the way a child walks a path. You don't necessarily find what you are looking for. Unlike the tourist who goes out seeking the Mona Lisa and finds it, you find Christ in the wrong places. You find Easter at Christmas. You find pain in birth, even as you find glory, beauty and force. You press and click and you take home... the unexpected pebble, that slaps against your leg in secret.

Wounded Christ painting, photo taken at the Louvre, by L.L. Barkat.

Merry Christmas, my friends. May you find the gems no one else is looking for in this amazing season.


LL's Christmas at Love Notes to Yahweh

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

No Need to Be Real About Jesus

Christ child

Sun pours through the car window as I wait. Girls are in piano lessons, playing holiday duets. Christmas is coming and I'm bundled, oblivious to the stress of the season for just this snippet of time, here in the car, in the sun before tomorrow's predicted storm.

Oblivious because I'm immersed in, of all things, the gift I bought myself for Christmas. The Jewish Study Bible. Not light reading for the hectic holidays. But I'm intoxicated.

The person who wrote the introduction is talking about the preeminence of story in Genesis and other parts of Torah. Genesis is not, he reminds me, philosophical proof or confession of faith or theological tract but story. (Hey, Scot, this reminds me of Parakeet too!)

Story is messy. It gets told from different points of view, it seems inconsistent at times, it is not rigid but fluid. It has, as the writer notes a high tolerance for different versions of the same event. I chuckle to myself and think about calling this post Torah 'n Me, because I realize I drive my husband crazy by a similar ancient-Near-Eastern approach to reality (it looks like I'm thinking inconsistently, Dear, but I'm just the Torah type!)

I close my eyes and think about a quote I read in A Profound Weakness...

... images of the birth of Jesus tend to focus on symbolic, formulaic aspects of the event because realism isn't essential in promoting story. Realism puts an event in time and place but doesn't necessarily point to the 'subplot', to the invisible. p.52

On the night before Christmas, we too will put realism aside. We'll think on the sweetness of God not with treatises but by biting into challah bread dipped in honey. We'll raise our makeshift tent (sukkah) and participate in the story of God's people seeking respite (the way the Israelites found respite in God in the desert). Each person will have a chance to sit in the shadows of the tent, smell and taste that bread, which a child will hand them, saying...

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the house of the LORD your whole life long. Ps 23

And the one who receives the bread will say, Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. (Ps 31:5)

Each of us will bring our secret and not-so-secret stories to the tent. Knowing me, I'll close my eyes, feel the moment like it is the warmth of the sun shining, regardless of storms. And I'll feel bundled, like a child listening to a story before good night. Before good night and, in this season, before Merry Christmas.

RAP: Ache of Advent by L.L. at High Calling Blogs
Poetry Friday: Oasis at Erica Hale's
Six Christmas Poems at GoodWordEditing

Christ Child watercolor by Salvador Dali. Photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

RAP: Found in the Outdoor Journal III

Dali Madonna and Child

'Tis the season to feel overwhelmed. Yet in the midst of it all, I feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. This weekend I came to the end of my first outdoor journal and, indeed, almost to the end of sifting through my chronicles of the year of daily outdoor solitude. As this work is winding down, there are yet a few poems hiding, waiting. Here are a few I found on Saturday...


Maple afire ‘neath
sun’s last flames—
phoenix upon its nest.


Maple, fine in yellow
dress, readies herself
for winter’s dance.


Wood-winged bushes
finally blush peach yellow,
succumb to wind’s cool fingers.


of death,
how unexpectedly
the fragrance.


Fall sneaks into
the house, hiding on
my skin and hair.


Moon’s full-orbed
body glows through
chintz of cloud.


wears the finest
lace, woven from
day’s departure.


Hemlocks whisper,
“Hush, hush, hush,
the girl can hear us.”


Snow empties the sky
to a bare whiteness, but
it fills me, fills me.


Little lemon tongues,
wagged off at last.


Pine sways
softly and I
am at rest.


Hemlock branches
bounce like babies
in their swings.


“Tip, tip, tip,” says the rain
to my sorrow. “Trust me, do.”
And the hemlocks in their
stillness say much the same.

RAP: Found in the Outdoor Journal II
RAP: Found in the Outdoor Journal I

Madonna and Child painting by Salvador Dali, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Late Arrival to the Velvet Hall

Napoleon Triple Couch

So. My radio interview on Stone Crossings with WSOY's Directline has finally arrived and I uploaded it to my website. If you're in the mood, kick up your feet (I won't tell the museum guards), grab a hot drink and listen to the interview now.

Napoleon's Apartments Triple Couch at the Louvre. Photo by L.L. Barkat.

Little Sonia's To the Lake, to the Ribbon Red at LL's Green Inventions
Erica's Writer's Block
High Calling Blogs' RAP: Nepotist's Delight

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Monday, December 08, 2008

RAP: Found in the Outdoor Journal II

sky after chesterwood.nadeau

As I said before, I want to preserve bits of the outdoor journal. So I salvage sentences, dress them up in line breaks and set them here.


Pine is sprung
with a million tiny
liquid globes, set

to capture day's grey
light or splash an
unsuspecting passerby.


I did not
to leave the warmth
of the kitchen,
scent of
fresh-roasted granola
and evening's
potato curry.


Maples shake
shower the woods,
while pine barely
trembles, keeps
shivering pearls
to herself.




while I
did not


in faltering
sun, needles


Squirrel tail
wiggles, a weightless
question mark.


Dying dogwood: a rippled
set of leafless branches
yearning towards sky.


Mosaic of leaves
fans out from
canopy of wood-
winged bushes;
I feel at a loss
for words.


already golden
at the tip, a small
that summer
will soon


I shall not
the mosquitoes!




I take off
my glasses,
am privy to a
softer, brighter
wood, living


New squirrel
in the woods,
black like a
velvet cat!


Pine branches...
spokes in two directions,
lateral 'round trunk and
spinning 'cross knobbly
joints of each protusion—
wheels within wheels,
Ezekiel tree.


Silken web undulates,
a lady's private wash
upon the wind.


Lesser fauna
the first
soft weeping,
shed summer's
and substance.


Kale is
bluing and




Wild cowboy squirrels
buck through hemlocks;
cardinals shoot out, cry.


Fall's dry fingers open
winter's white duvet,
shake and ready it.




Spider's suspension bridge:
one line, span supported
by a single silken cable.


Puffs of pine needles
shimmy like fat grass
hula skirts.


Let the mosquito
land. Then you can
swat him.


Red berries on
thorn bush— bright
packages for birds.


Lone, fresh forsythia bud
spills October's secret:
too flirtatious with the sun!


Pine flames
amber under Fall's
enroaching torch.


Geese call overhead,
fading sound of
goodbye summer.


Yellow and red
splash against
my black umbrella.


Lightning flashes
and I write
of yellow leaves.


Mischief pine has
decked the little
bush beside me with
a thousand threads
of bronze needle
tinsel, draped her
in surprise holiday.

I'm pleased to have found so many poems in one day. I realize, looking at all these next to each other, that I use the word soft too much. Which was no problem in the journal. But which I would need to attend to if I wanted to really work on poetry. However, I'm not your read-the-dictionary type. Suggestions?

Sunset photo by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

POETRY FRIDAY (or thereabouts):
Little Sonia's To the Lake, to the Ribbon Red at LL's Green Inventions
Erica's Writer's Block

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Of Golden Leaves and a Crescent Moon

Basket and Pear

Full days. Where to begin?

A solitary train ride, as sun set over Hudson waters... rays slant, blushing on blue, then fading to charcoal as night descended. Walking alone through New York city streets, buildings rising mammoth, imposing, making me feel my smallness, taste it like strong tea brisk in my mouth.

Or the lone tree on U.N. Way still dressed in golden leaves that flipped like pennies in a child's hands. I stopped to take it in, there on the rushing streets of the city that never sleeps. On my way to hear Os Guinness at the Roosevelt. The Roosevelt, decked for the holidays, in greens and reds, sparkling lights, jazz music greeting me at the door. Chatter and velvet and the smell of cinnamon and vodka in the air.

Maybe I should speak of the crescent moon over the East River, exuding gentility and power like the grandfatherly poet Samuel Hazo who I heard Tuesday night. Steady and enduring as that crescent moon, he recited straight from memory for over an hour. Recited his own deep verse and a little Shakespeare, in an old Catholic church of stone and wood and flickering candles. Verse to make me laugh and cry. And he asked...

... can you think of one thing someone has said today or this week... one thing that you will never forget... if you can't, you must question your attention to the poetic that is all around you, waiting to be heard, sniffed, tasted...

In silent answer, the flavor of grapes came sweet in my mouth. Katie's grapes. Little three-year-old Katie, filching Grandpa's grapes from the Thanksgiving basket. The basket that had sat empty on that holiday, waiting for each of us to put our piece of fruit in it. Fruit we silently assigned a joy and a sorrow that we brought to this year's table. Grandpa's fruit: grapes. But who knows his joy and sorrow?

Mommy! my youngest had cried, Katie's eating Grandpa's joy and sorrow!

This is the line I won't forget. Like night falling on the Hudson, and a solitary train ride, and the golden penny tree, and the moon, the crescent moon, shining alone, seemingly small against the giant of New York City. The poetry of life, come to visit. Come knocking, asking, will you take me in?

Basket and Fruit photo by Saima Barkat. Used with permission.


Ann's Waiting Hope
High Calling's Random Acts of Poetry: Christmas Lament
LL's Midnight's Gift
Erica's Waiting Sky
Marcus's Where We Live

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