wild hair


lon hair
This is me with long hair. My (male) friend from Switzerland braided it for me.


“You look so much younger with your hair short.”


I have heard that all my life. Looking younger seems to be a priority in my culture.

I remember Aunt Susie. She was one of my dad’s younger sisters, and until she was what I considered ancient, she had long hair. It was shiny brunette with a hint of auburn highlights. She usually wore her hair in a twist at the nape of her neck. She was soft-spoken and beautiful. Then one day, she got her hair cut into the “respectable old lady” do. Even thinking about it now – years later – is deflating somehow.

Some Native Americans consider long hair a source of power. Biblical character Sampson, a consecrated Nazirite, grew his hair for strength. In New Testament times only prostitutes were candidates for shaved heads. In many traditions, long hair is a woman’s glory.

When I was a pre-teen and teenager, the “beautiful” girls had long hair. Only the rebellious had the courage to cut their hair extremely short. Only the rebellious young men grew their hair long – to be at the receiving end of teasing or even persecution.

“A real man does not have long hair.” Scoff.

It is confusing. As an older woman, I am now expected to wear my hair short. “You look so much younger ….” Blah, blah, blah! Who would want some gleaming hair making a woman look OLD! Besides, old women are silly and invisible – even to one another sometimes.

I do not know too many old women with flowing hair. (How old is old?) The four I do know are counter-cultural – even rebellious. It takes patience and guts for an old woman to grow her hair long.

Next time you see me, my hair might be longer. I might be brave and resist the peer pressure beauty advice to cut it.

Next time you see me, I might look older. I will have to choose whether to be an older woman with short hair or an older woman with long hair.

erik and jean
My younger son, at his first college graduation, and me (with hair)





This is Conner Walsh — not Kenny. Connor is almost as handsome as Kenny. Got your attention, didn’t he?

Journal 8-7-93

An old book title: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and it’s All Small Stuff ~ Richard Carlson

Just because we have heard it a lot does not mean it is no longer true.


This has been an anxiety of mine: How will I do driving by myself all the way through the city to Garrett [the seminary], on Sheridan Avenue, just north of Chicago in Evanston? This seems foreboding to a sheltered “wimpette” like me. Classes are starting in mid-September. I will be arriving alone and living on campus by myself with what I can bring in the trunk of my car. Every week-end or two, I will make the 260 mile commute from central Michigan to Evanston.

I am going to seminary to learn more of Christ. Either I trust, or I do not trust.


This week, my husband Nick has been doing some post graduate work at Garrett. He contracted pneumonia while there and I am to go there and drive him home — through Chicago. This will be my first solitary run. I have never even ridden to Evanston through Chicago from the South side before. I am timid.


Enter the perfect prototype of rescuing manhood. He is Kenny – a member of the parish – a farmer in his early 30’s. [What I do not know as I write this is how popular the matchmaking website, Farmersonly.com will become years later. Understandable.]

Kenny volunteers to drive me to Garrett. He will bring me there, take a look around Garrett and Northwestern campuses, and then drive home. (Nick already has his car.)

Early in the morning he arrives. I climb into his pickup. It is a 5 hour journey. I make mental notes regarding the route all the way – especially the turns in the city. [This was before GPS.]

The ride is a cross-cultural experience. The lean man, wearing pristine Western clothing and boots, his cowboy hat and his own brand of comfort in his own (my-God-perfect) skin is good company.

While we ride, he tunes his radio in to a station that plays polkas. Polkas. Yes.

“They have a cheerful vibe.” His grin is convincing. This cowboy takes me somewhere I have never been before. Straight through Chicago to toe-tapping polka music.

On seminary and university campus, Kenny gets a lot of covert, but positive attention. The hat? The boots? His towering physical presence? Glowing-cheerful-handsomeness?

It is a pleasant initiation to casual Chicago driving.


Conclusions: I am on schedule. God’s sense of humor is subtly outrageous.



Here is a hazy photo of me on my first birthday.

I was a sickly child.

Grandma had made me a birthday cake.

It sat out of reach, but I stretched for it.


This photo is a metaphor of my life.

At age one, was I spiritually immature?

Reaching for that which is beyond me?


I am a crone now, and strong.

Still reaching for the cake.

Still a child – spiritually immature.

Enter a caption



Wedding Season


I wonder if it is wedding season in India.

The dyed colors, lights, incense, chaos —

Parts of contagious revelry.


Astral travel —

That is what I will do.

In the wee hours of partying,

You will notice my mimicking shadow

Out of the corner of your eye.


Even later, when you are in that hypnotic place

Between waking and sleep,

You will barely notice your blanket shift.

My body will be against the curve of your back.

You will feel my hand reach around to caress

Your taut abdomen.


Your hair will smell of spices.

The nape of your neck will have

Just a whisper of moisture

Beneath my lips.




good night candle


No material valentine this year. It’s OK.

Many sweet spirits wafting, however.

Most of them from outer space —

Kindred spirits of benign archer variety.

I am a fool.


Resist the instant fix, anyway.

Sunday, Pastor Geri mentioned emptiness.

As Tolle suggests,

I noted the emotion/emptiness in me

As I sat in church.

Richard Rohr calls it

Beginner’s mind.

After all these years

I am empty.


That Rascal helps,

Like it or not.

Not an instant fix –

An easing of the woes.


Sweetest spirit

From outer space.

Soul Sister Surgeries

dear Robelle  February 15, 2016  soul sister

Today my soul friend is having surgery at the University of Chicago Hospital. The outcome of that procedure will determine her destiny.

(Odd, it just occurred to me that every little thing we do and every person we encounter factors in determining our destiny. It is a large thought for the mind.)

When I was ages 4 and 8, I had surgeries at Children’s Memorial Hospital on Fullerton Avenue in Chicago – a lifetime ago.

When I was four, my surgeon was Doctor Gibson. When I was age eight, the surgeon was Doctor Potts. In that era, they were pioneers in the discipline/art of open heart surgery.

I am no more significant than any other soul on this earth, but this I know. If my little body had not been surrendered to those surgeons, I would have already been a name on a gravestone for decades. My older brother would perhaps have a vague memory of his tiny sister four years his junior. There is one uncle Art, my father’s youngest and only living brother now, who would perhaps have recalled the slight girl who had died so young.

Instead there are sons, step-children and grandchildren who may remember me for one or two generations more.

I cannot fathom how someone can do surgery on tiny children – or anybody. The ones who gave me my life are long gone now, but I am not. To remember them is to pay tribute to god beings. For me.

Within the last decade I have conversed with a cardiologist who knew of the “Potts Method” in heart surgery.

“How pleased Dr. Potts would have been to see you now,” he glowed as he said it to me.

Today my soul friend has surrender her destiny in the same city – blocks and years from where I did. It is the territory of the divine.

Today I stand on tiptoe gazing back and toward the future. We live in a miracle age, I have noticed in passing.



A SON LEAVES FOR THE ARMY: One mother’s perspective

July 13, 1993

Today young Nick left for Fort Sill with the recruiter.

Images of some of the days before and of this bitter event:

  • Many hugs. After his father hugs him good-bye, he weeps uncontrollably the moment we leave the building.
  • A period before, our young son had to fight with us, belittle us and tell us he “can’t wait to get out of this hell-hole.” Partly true. Partly untrue.

What I do not know as I am writing this, is often when loved ones are on the verge of separating, they fight and hate. It makes the separation more endurable.

  • I sit at the rolled top desk a few hours later to write a first letter to my soldier son. Emotion is shut down. Nothing. The sensation I do have is utter physical emptiness, like my entire chest cavity is hollow. I never experienced this before. (Have never felt it since. The emotional lost- aloneness was yet to arrive.)
  • I remember what his dad, Big Nick, told me one day, four years ago when he had been substitute teaching at Jeffers School. A recruiter had given a presentation of the myriad opportunities in the U.S. Army. After the program, in his typical fashion, Big Nick had taken the recruiter aside.

“Why are you lying to these kids?” He qualified to ask such a question since he had served during the Viet Nam Conflict.

The recruiter defended the honor of it all, but Big Nick had seen a fleeting wraith of shame pass across the chiseled features.

Good-bye upon good-bye. Life has so many good-byes.

Later today we visit some people in the new parish who own a pig farm. I hold a baby pig – a pink-eared, peach-fuzz-covered tiny consolation. The small hooves feel like vinyl. The ears are translucent. They make me think of a rosy night light in a little girl’s bedroom.

sweet guys long time ago
Those darlings, from right to left: Soldier Son, his Brother and his Cousin


Art by Michael Parkes


The Present  2-1-16


Dear Bell,

You are the only one I can be honest with. Everybody else is too damn holy or too damn mean.

I grieve.

I miss my sons.

I have been young and I have been old. My mind is young. My dreams and longings are young. Time past and time passed. I am old.

My sons are far away on every level. One day I woke up and saw they were gone – geographically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I conjure thousands of my mistakes that may have caused it. There are countless reasons why I cannot sit on their doorsteps as some parents are able. Three quarters of my reasons are legitimate.

Foremost, there is the level of my husband’s illness and the level of abandonment we experience from those near – no one to come stay with him 24/7 for even a few days. All the reasons this is so are legitimate.

I love my husband and he loves me. His disease has objectified me. I have gone from being a lover to a nurse and care manager. Instead of a wife, I am a chum. My life is consumed by care and household management. My wages are the company of an admired and pleasant ghost of a love — and shared room and board.

He gives me a lot of breathing space.


One day, for the first time, I looked on my Skype screen at an old young friend and met a god. I could gaze and catch my breath. We looked on in silence. It was my evening and his early morning.

He had a rumpled, sleepy-eyed casualness. In his photos he has looked somber. Now as he smiled, he revealed perfect teeth. When he lifted his fingers to his lips I glimpsed rings on his forefinger. In the dimness the jewels in his ears glinted. His eyes were like midnight galaxy reflections in calm water. That moment I fleetingly captured ancient magi mystery.

Bell, you and I have pledged to never be offended by one another over our more than thirty year friendship. So, my soul friend, I once again need your voice of sanity.

I love you.




Dear Shadow,

I know how lonely you are for your sons. I know how you grieve for times and people lost.

I also know that as we age, life takes on a greater grace and fluidity. We follow our Creator who never stops surprising us. Please do not call an amazing gift from God, evil. To quote your Saint Ignatius: “When in desolation, remember consolation.” Don’t worry. If there is any chaff in this, the Spirit will burn it, so it doesn’t blow back into your face when the wind shifts.

This young friend is new family. In eternity there is no time or space. Enjoy.

I love you.