Saturday, May 31, 2003


The first leg of traveling went well, we spent last night in Concord with my parents before going to Cape Cod. We took a walk in the woods and saw an amazing beaver dam, a long dam creating a good-sized pond fairly high on a hillside. Now that I live outside the area shaped by glaciers, I am so struck when I go back by the rocks of and ridges left by the glaciers. Stony soil.

The forgiveness issues aren't something that are spoken of, they are acted out in subtle ways. I did tell my mother that I am talking to the priest in the town on Cape Cod about doing a house blessing, as I think that would help me settle the memories some. She said nothing. That is good enough; now I can tell the priest that I am not doing this in secret from the other people who use the house. The uncertainty is the scheduling, as my parents are going to join us on Cape Cod sooner in the week than I thought and aren't sure whether they are going to go to New York for an event midweek. I want to do the houseblessing when they aren't around.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

more travel

I'm off tomorrow for a family vacation in Massachusetts; back here June 9 (though I may end up having internet access there instead of my usual email only). Most of the time we will be on Cape Cod, which is beautiful this time of year before the schools up there let out, but can be very cold. I spent my summers in that house as a child; I want my kids to have the good things in that place but it is always hard for me because I have bad memories.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Weakness and Fierce Landscapes

I've been reading The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, by Belden C. Lane. I wish it were yet more personal, but it is a fascinating weaving together of the personal, the spiritual, and the scholarly. He talks about the desert as a place where we meet God when we have to face our powerlessness.

Somehow for me the difficulty of facing my powerlessness is woven in with the issue of forgiveness. I want the power to hold the other person responsible just as I want to believe that I could have resisted as a child. To admit that I had and have no power to change the situation is hard

Monday, May 26, 2003

Early morning on the beach

Seabrook Island, May 14.


I've been using the distinction that forgiveness is something I can do without the participation of the other person, while reconciliation is the restoration of relationship (I got my ideas originally from Forgiveness Forum). But someone in my Sunday school class brought in a sermon on reconciliation that gave the definition truth + forgiveness = reconciliation.

It would be wonderful if the other person admitted the truth of what happened or there was some other kind of public recognition of the truth. Certainly many people who write about their childhood abuse experiences are wanting just that: public recognition of the truth. But there is only limited room for that in this world. Is it possible to feel that the truth has been said without either an admission from the abuser or public recognition? It would take a kind of internal confidence I don't have yet; I've been discovering I don't expect people to believe me (when what I have experienced in recent years is that they do).

I'm realizing that it comes back to forgiveness. I don't want full restoration of relationship; I don't want to give that gift to the other person if they have not acknowledged the truth or asked for forgiveness. But that then sounds like another level of forgiveness to work on, because I am still wanting the other person to pay a price. I would like to get to the point where I'm not still wanting to hurt that person back. I can see that step is both hard and hopeful, to sacrificially absorb the evil.

Friday, May 23, 2003

teaching with technology

I just taught a workshop on alternatives to PowerPoint. One of the participants asked me what advantages my web page approach has over PowerPoint, other than the ability to scroll up and down. I said I don't know that it has any major advantages, PowerPoint just doesn't feel right to me. It doesn't suit the way my brain works. It felt hard to change people's mindset from "what is the best way to do X?" to the idea that different approaches suit different people. I finally said that I'm not a dynamic lecturer like some of the professors in my department but I remember that when I was a student I didn't like best the professors who were flashy performers, I liked quiet sincerity. Variations in styles of teaching are a good thing because different styles are going to suit different students, not to mention that it would be boring if everyone were the same.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Saving Endangered Species

I was intrigued by something I read yesterday about the Endangered Species Act, in the book The Red-cockaded Woodpecker by Richard N. Conner, D. Craig Rudolph, and Jeffrey R. Walters. In the spring of 1985 the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the Texas Committee on Natural Resources filed a lawsuit against the US Forest Service, which came to include charges that management of the National Forests was causing harm to the Red-cockaded woodpecker. The judge ruled in June 1988 in favor of the Sierra Club, and his ruling included a crucial new definition. He wrote that destruction of habitat constituted "taking" (harming or killing members of an endangered species), which was prohibited by the Endangered Species Act. That definition was appealed to the Supreme Court in a related case, and the Supreme Court upheld it in 1995. (More information) What a crucial difference that legal interpretation makes: protection must be given not only to the endangered species but also to the habitat it needs. That may seem obvious, but given the large habitat requirements of many endangered species it was revolutionary.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Darkness and Light

Monday I had a safe place to go deep into a childhood memory that had been triggered last week. I realize now better why I have always been so shaken by the scene with the rats in Orwell's 1984. It isn't rats, specifically, but self-betrayal.

When I came out of the memory I had a sense of a tiny star in my wounded hand. And I wondered how much the world of such deep pain and evil is the same world as the world of deep spiritual experience. Do those experiences happen in the same place in the inside landscape?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Sursum Corda Spiritual Directors' Formation Program

I spent last week at the first residency of this program. It was an amazing experience of being accepted in all my woundedness in a group and of experiential exploration of spirituality. I'm very much still processing it all. But one of the high points was that Saturday morning at breakfast I said to someone that I felt I was being turned into a (minor) expert and I didn't want to be one. And then the next session answered my concerns. Shaun McCarty spoke on the spiritual director as mystagogue, exploring a shared language for mystery.

I found online an article on one of the topics we explored, centering prayer, by Shaun McCarty, one of the faculty.

Turtle Tracks on Seabrook Island

These tracks were left by a loggerhead turtle coming up on the beach at night to lay her eggs.

Friday, May 09, 2003

going away

I will be out of town May 11-18. It is the first residency for the Sursum Corda spiritual directors' formation program run by the Diocese of South Carolina. I'm three months into the program and have done one set of readings and written one paper, but this is the first time I will meet anyone in person. I'm a bit anxious about my place in the community, particularly with my tendency to question everything. But the funny thing is that my reaction to going back to school is to be obsessed with doing everything right. Despite that, what I'm hoping for is a deep experience of learning with my heart instead of with my brain.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Insecurity and Gender

In the middle third of the nineteenth century there was a lot of emphasis on women's place being in the home. To oversimplify a theory in women's history, the reason for this was that men felt insecure in the new more competitive world brought by new technology, and they reacted by wanting to preserve an imagined older stability in the home. I thought I saw that sort of thing happen after 9/11/01; in times of insecurity society tends to want women to be more domestic, wants to make gender roles more rigid.

The question I got thinking about is why is it in gender roles, particularly, that the need for stability is acted out? Why not in some other area of culture (I suppose the other place it is acted out, which fits both cases, is in religion). The answer that just occurred to me is that as our world becomes more and more mediated by technology, gender feels like our grounding in biological reality. The more out of touch we are with biological reality the more people hang on to gender roles as the one place where we are grounded in biological reality, even though gender roles aren't biological at all and there is far from a fixed line between male and female even biologically. We don't grow our own food any more but we still make our own babies (most of the time).

For me, gender fluidity is a liberating idea. But not very many people see it that way.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Thoreau online

I went to a workshop yesterday in which an English professor talked about his experience getting started in teaching with technology. He said he had been struggling to find a book for his student that had the classic essays he wanted to teach, and he thought maybe he could find them online instead. He said he almost cried when he found Thoreau online.

I almost cried to think of what Thoreau would say about what we are doing. A man who said "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" and asked "What's the railroad to me?" would see instantly that we are pursuing innovation for its own sake, not because it is actually better. Now I don't dismiss that entirely; one of the values of technology is to keep me and my students from getting bored. But Thoreau deserves his due for suggesting that it is enough that "I have travelled a great deal in Concord" and musing that "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


Is it possible to speak the truth? No, I don't mean some absolute truth, I mean being real, being who I really am. Dorothea writes of something like what I mean. I spoke with feeling about some of my current struggles in a Sunday school class this past Sunday, and it actually went ok, if I don't get hurt by the people who will now act like it was never said. But it is so rare that people do share what is inside. I really really don't want to live by social conventions but it is hard to get past that (particularly in small town South Carolina). The other side of the problem is how much will anyone else actually understand. I want to believe that not so much the details but some of the meaning can be understood. That seems crucial to me to life being worth living.

Friday, May 02, 2003

releasing young trees

Walking through the woods at the convent, which is in the sandhills region of South Carolina, I noticed a few young longleaf pines, some still in the grass stage. From the forestry I have learned from my current project I was thinking "someone ought to cut down the scrub oak so that the longleaf have enough sun to grow." Foresters call that releasing the seedlings.

I laughed that I was worrying about forestry instead of spiritual matters, but then I realized it is good symbolism. I'm trying to get out of old patterns and let some sun in to what is growing inside me.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


I just promised to get a book manuscript done by July 1 of which I have written maybe 1/4. I was very honest with the publisher I was talking to, saying that I don't know if I will succeed but this is the way I work--create a deadline and then hopefully it gets done.

I'm trying to write a more synthetic book rather than use a plodding scholarly style, so I'm hoping that being under the gun will help me write it as a story rather than as a compilation of events. I'm hoping to bring to my academic work some of what I have learned from my freer writing, both here and in journals/letters.