a poem for january 15

What is it called when two people have an ESV Bible,
A Spanish New Testament,
A Merriam-Webster dictionary,
A Greek New Testament,
A Greek lexicon,
And the internet
All open at the same time, looking up the etymology of jealousy versus envy?
Then later a roommate, in a black and white sweater,
lilts across the kitchen making sweet potatoes and a salad-
from one counter to another, she leans into what she does
like grass leans in the wind-
and salmon goes into the oven.
And there is a recording of “Gaudete” in sung in cockney accents.
Then a friend comes over with music in his hands,
Trying to put it into your clumsy hands, and you practice conducting entrances on the second eighth note of the down-beat.
What is it called when he and Meagan sit in the afternoon-lit living room
And talk about thought and emotion and the Aeolian harp
And whether a Brahms piece sounds like it was meant for strings or organ?

We have all of this and no name for it.
O peace of imprecision, of gifts that waft like fragrance, out of definition’s reach.


365 beautiful things

Back in April, I wrote about listsThe truth is, I have internalized Rilke when he said that perhaps we are here simply to make lists: House. Bridge. Fountain. Gate. Pitcher. Apple tree. Window. To say things as they are in their integrity, without embellishment.

Last New Year’s Day, I made my first and only New Year’s resolution: to make a note each evening of something beautiful I saw or experienced that day. I set a repeating reminder on my phone and didn’t miss a day. It became a precious ritual, and I think it made me progressively more mindful and grateful. I want to share some of the 365 beautiful things with you, interspersed with a few mediocre iPhone pictures.

1. Ben climbing to the outside of a fence at the arboretum to look over the ledge: “Everything is an adventure.”
6. Driving to Austin in 30 degree cold with rhapsody in blue on the radio and the clouds rolling away from the sun
16. Ran past restaurants this morning- and past Christmas trees left out for bulk pickup. It smelled like breakfast on Christmas.

31. Quiet at Trinity university, surrounded by walkers, next to a sculpture like Stonehenge, under the thin moon and two stars
39. I fed stingrays. In addition, I felt quite acutely homesick, and I think there is a beauty in that awareness.
50. Jesus changed death from a weapon against us into a weapon to be used by us. “Unless a grain of seed falls into the earth and dies, it cannot bear fruit.”
52. Two hawks flying between South Lamar and Rio Grande
60. Bible study and communal prayer. Emily Serven showing emotion in the tiniest facial muscles as she talked about her family
79. Sunrise pervading the spring sky. This poem about the Boeing 777: http://onbeing.org/uncategorized/working-together/
81. My choir kids leaning over Jeffrey Blair’s shoulder at KMFA
87. John talking about Paris- the boulevards and the monuments and how he used to go into restaurants and talk to the owners when they were closed
99. Sitting in noon service. Cold chairs. Small organ and the rumble of heavy rain.
112. Tears in service. Urban walking/prayer with Bethany and Cara. Football huddle with choir kids after rehearsal.
118. Community walk in Clarksville led by a vibrant and energetic woman who cares about Urbanism and this city.
132. Walking A&M with Dad and hearing stories about his college years
135. The way Joshua says “humongous distinction”
138. Laughing around the Lills’ tiny kitchen table
143. Thudding over the white iron bridge in montopolis. Whiteness and the sensation of drumming
149. Joking with Geoffrey in our TPPF conference room– he smiles honestly around me now
166. Two American Airlines employees in Raleigh thinking hard and working together to get me home to Austin
168. Unbelievable red extravagance of a plum cut and bleeding sweetly on a plate
174. Holding sway over a choir of VBS kids, conducting them through Rutter and them smiling back at me
180. Going through the taco cabana drive thru to get one 35-cent tortilla
188. Camaraderie in the office; Emily holding her chin in her hand as she listens
193. Mars Hill cello, a description of Charles Williams, and use of the word “posit”
197. In the very early morning hours, a long and healing conversation. Alternatively talking about serious pain and laughing at it.
217. Tumbling with Brooke, holding Lily, squeezing John Mark, singing to Amber
227. The slow ordering of cleaning supplies and the patient consideration of homemaking
234. Anna knowing me so well in ikea
236. Lived vision and visceral love at community first village
245. Caroline telling me about her lessons in pterosaurs
247. An afternoon with Dad: planting a garden and watching a documentary about Wendell Berry afterwards
260. Meagan’s early Sunday morning soliloquies on the nature of the good, true, and beautiful as she seasons crockpot curry
264. Hill country clouds in soft colors; conversations about handed-down and aspired-to faithfulness with my family in our favorite vacation cabin
275. Two little girls waving joyously at my train as they roll beside us in the back seat of a black convertible
285. Joonho sight reading a Billy Joel song at the Ahrens’ house and trying to help me sing along
306. Biking through the HEB tunnel, seeing the light at the end fill more and more of my sight; the lovely, silly, cruel, innocent world opening to me again as it always does
308. Hearing a south Dallas developer talk about his investments as farms that he commits to for life…knowing I was born for this work
324. Walking up lavaca with Nina and Josiah, talking city and economics and the reformation and laughing like crazy college kids
334. Meagan in a garishly adorable sweater dress, sewing and telling me how to do archival research
339. Roo Panes’ Little Giant album and 59 degrees
342. Austin commuters exiting the train and sliding down the icy platform ramp- some joyously, some with trepidation
358. Breathlessly singing Christmas carols on my bike to and from church on Christmas Eve
363. Sitting at a hospitable and homely Ethiopian restaurant with Aubrey, flavorful food eaten with hands, rich-smelling coffee, and sensitive conversation
364. A doubled waffle recipe and an impromptu breakfast party
365. T S Eliot in cherrywood coffeehouse: “take no thought of the harvest, but only of proper sowing.”

reading list 2016

Books I read in 2016: the latest in a string of consecutively shorter lists.

(following asterisks denote previously read)

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred by Philip Bess
The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle
Hamlet by William Shakespeare*
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Postmillennialism by Keith Mathison
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
Antigone by Sophocles
Bold Love by Dan B. Allender
The Essential Rilke selected and translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton*
Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Harvest Poems by Carl Sandburg
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling*
Heidegger in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
What’s Best Next? by Matt Perman
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers
The Confessions of Saint Augustine*
The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats