I Am White/I Am A Woman


[Willow Sculptures, Oslo, Norway Botanical Garden, October, 2015]

I am white/I am a woman

I am white/I am responsible

I am white/I am not responsible

I am white/I am powerful

I am a woman/I hold up half the sky

I am a woman/I am not powerful

I am white/I am a Quaker (almost goes without saying*!)

I am white/I am old

I am old/I am not powerful

I am an old Quaker/I am powerful


*In the USA

Showing Up


[Bumper Stickers on a Somerville Volvo, 2016]

Sometimes Spirit merely whispers, “Do it.” Period. Sometimes reasons are not given. Sometimes we’re supposed to simply be faithful to that Still Small Voice. But sometimes, when it’s pouring rain and you’re wondering if you’re really meant to march in a parade, you wish Spirit could be a wee bit more articulate! (Or as Bill Kreidler is reported to have said: “You want me to do what?”)

Sometimes, however, when we, indeed, Do It/ Show Up, reasons are supplied.

Reason #1: Sunday morning, wrestling with my umbrella, sheathed in long underwear, multiple layers, and L.L.Bean-sturdy rain gear, I was nervously approaching the parade-launching area when a bumper sticker caught my eye: “If it’s not fun why do it?” Oh! Right! This is A PARADE! The Honk! Parade! With marching bands! And wacky costumes!  And Somerville and Cambridge police blocking traffic so all of us, activists and street bands, can dance down Massachusetts Avenue! Oh, right: even in the midst of God-in-the-Hard-Places, there is Joy.* (Damp Joy, for sure. Bedraggled Joy. Many bands canceling because the rain threatened their instruments. But those of us who Showed Up did get to dance.)

Needless to say, the crowds lining Mass Av were pretty thin this year. But one spectator, huddled under a store awning, did Show Up despite her age and the terrible weather—and became Reason #2.  An environmentalist before most of us, she’s now retired and a widow. To see her face light up as our Mothers Out Front group marched past made my day. Because she saw young women with their families showing up. She saw, embodied, the work she’s done being carried on. She saw Sisterhood in action. With banners and red capes. (We were SuperMoms this year.)

There are some who dismiss Honk! as merely college-educated-white-people-being-(publicly)-weird. And there’s some truth to that. This year, though, just as the parade was almost to Harvard Square, Reason #3 joined us: Harvard University’s  striking kitchen workers and their supporters. What a thrill to see that long line of protesters claim Mass Av as theirs!

Thank you, Spirit!

*For me, when grappling with pain and brokenness, the joy comes from knowing that at that moment, there is absolutely nothing else I’d rather be doing than looking deeply into that “Ocean of Darkness.” (And asking myself: What am I asked to do?)

“There Is Mystery”


[Post-It on the E Train, 2016]

Sunday was “extended worship”at my Quaker meeting, a two-hour-rather-than-one meeting for worship which began an hour early. (We do this from time to time.) Only a handful sat in silence for that first hour. I was one of them.

Here’s The Thing: Somehow the presence of a scattering of people in a commodious meetinghouse* for that first/extra hour altered that space in some profound and mysterious way so that when the bulk of worshippers arrived at their usual 10:30 arrival time, they stepped into a room “”that felt different.” (Someone told me this later.) And worship felt deeper, more grounded, too. Why?

Part of me wants to dissect this phenomenon, to explain it—so that it can be replicated! But a larger part of me wants to give over, to let go of my need to put words to this mystery. And to simply and to gratefully celebrate That Which Is Beyond Words.


* Factoring in its balcony, the Friends Meeting at Cambridge meetinghouse can easily seat one-hundred fifty people; two-hundred scrunched together.

Listening in Tongues (4)


[Harvard Square Post, 2016]

“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words,” wails Eliza Doolittle. Me, too, sometimes. For no matter how well-chosen or apt, sometimes words are merely background noise while whatever truth welling up within us finds language to make itself understood.

Saturday night, for example, was the “staged reading” of a play I’m working on, i.e. a performance solely dependent on the words the actors read aloud. No sets, no costumes, no bits o’ business, no lighting; no stagecraft! Just words. Lots of them. As four actors holding three-ring binders sat in front of my Quaker meeting’s meetinghouse.

At intermission —or “halftime” as my husband says—a member of the audience came up to me. “I think this is a play about how we know things,” he said. (You could almost hear the capital K as he pronounced “know”) “That’s something I’ve been thinking about, lately.”

And, yes, my play did offer several examples of just what he was talking about. But, clearly, he’d heard an echo of a question he’d brought through the meetinghouse door that night. A profound question—and alive for him right now. So he heard what he heard.

How do we listen in tongues? How do we hear beyond/beneath/(in spite of)  what we know? That’s the question alive for me right now.



Listening in Tongues (3)


[Shoulders: Louisville, KY, June, 2016]

As a Wheelock College sophomore, I was required to take “HGD” (Human Growth and Development) for an entire year. Aka Ages and Stages, the course ended at adolescence. Yup! When you turned twenty-one, HGD implied, you, me, all of us were done! Finished. Realized. (Really?)

Luckily, in 1976, eleven years into my own (developmentally vague and misunderstood) adulthood, Gail Sheehy published Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life—and rocked my world. Sheehy gave me a whole new set of ages and stages I could imagine myself moving through. Someday I’ll be middle-aged, I realized. Someday, perhaps, I’ll be a grandmother.

And so, the other day, when I got into a suddenly-deep, suddenly touchingly-honest conversation—re “adulting”— with a fifty-year-old father I’d just met, a part of me was able to step back from the conversation to silently acknowledge: he and I are in very different places developmentally. I have already lived through what he’s now experiencing. (I won’t repeat what he told me. It’s his story to share, not mine.) Surely, to remember such adult ages-and-stages is yet another way to listen in tongues.

So it didn’t surprise me when I told him my latest adulting/being-a-grandmother story—and he didn’t get it. (He blinked politely. But he didn’t get it.) For what it’s worth, here it is: Last Monday, just for a moment, as my four-year-old granddaughter put her heart, mind, and soul into lifting her vintage Radio Flyer (Lord knows why!), I saw in her determined, little face the woman she will become. And I was both grateful to see that vision and welled up realizing I might not live long enough to see my actual, over-21 grandchild.

Such preciousness and such mindfulness in that teary moment!

Listening in Tongues (2)


[A Black Shoe, a Lei, Other Detritus, AND a Fork in the Road]

“No one’s interested in anyone else’s dreams.”  That quote—or something like it—and usually attributed to “The Philadelphia Story” (Well, it might have been that 1940 movie but . . . ) effectively shut down my siblings and me. For while my parents were always fuzzy when it came to both exact quote and attribution, their distain for their children’s unconscious creations was always crystal clear. We kept our dream-lives to ourselves.

So I offer a recent dream and its crystal-clear “listening in tongues” Aha with great humility (and trepidation):

I had this dream the night before I was to have “care of meeting,” i.e.  to be the person who holds/prays for a meeting for worship. (Rarely, but still a part of the job description, having care of meeting can also mean being the person to intervene should someone offer a message that does not reflect Quaker values.) And then there’s ending the meeting when it’s both close to an hour but also has allowed time for quiet reflection at the end of worship. And inviting newcomers to introduce themselves. And encouraging the numerous people who want to make an announcement to be brief. And . . .

So, not surprisingly, my dream began when numerous members of my extended family, all with pressing concerns and questions and stories they wanted to share, simultaneously approached me! “Mom! Listen to me!” “What should I do about . . . ?” “Patricia! I really think you should. . . ” “Mom! You’ve got to . . . ! Right now!”

But as dreams often do, this nightmare suddenly morphed when, as my youngest daughter demanded an an immediate answer—about where a bicycle should be stored—her adult face transformed into a child’s. My child. My precious daughter. Wordlessly, my overwhelmedness transformed to love.

Quakers talk about ‘answering that of God in everyone.” Post that dream,  I’m trying a silent next step: And look into everyone’s eyes to seek out and to acknowledge the precious child within.