When Houseplants Are Zombies of the Apocalypse

Last night, after I finished packing for a long trip, I decided to move all my succulents outside for the duration of our weeklong vacation. I have nine pots of various sizes on the bookshelves in our front room: one tiny barrel cacti, four plants that look like desert seaweed, and assorted echeveria in dark […]

Fear and Faith in the Desert Places

I love Robert Frost’s poem “Desert Places.” Typical of Frost, the speaker in this poem describes a natural environment of forests, fields, and snow. But this isn’t a beautiful or peaceful place. Quite the opposite: it’s a place of darkness, cold, and isolation–it’s a menacing and threatening place. For me, the genius of the poem […]

Dear Portia: The Spiraling Journey of Forgiveness

How Do We Know When We’re Done Forgiving? Dear Portia, What does forgiveness look like when you work through the process and do your best, but either the offender never acknowledges their sin or they continue to offend? Not asking about boundaries, that’s pretty clear to me, but how do we know when we’re done? […]

When You’re Afraid of Dying

“If you want Elita to throw anything away, just tell her it causes cancer.” This was the advice a friend gave my husband, Mark, when we first got married. It was true. I had once thrown away a whole box of scented candles and a series of scratched Teflon frying pans because someone had told […]

The Red Handkerchief

In the story The Giver, they had a phrase “precision of language”. This was an admonition when people used an irrelevant term, something their culture didn’t believe in anymore. We have antiquated words that don’t serve us or even offend us now, and we have phrases whose etymologies are hard to trace. I’m captivated by […]

The Weight of Our Words

“Some words are elegant, some can wound and destroy, but all are written with the same letters.” – Paulo Coelho The laughing ceased as I walked into the room, turning to piercing eyes and whispers hidden behind folders. I inhaled deeply, trying to hold back the tears stinging my eyes. I wouldn’t let them know […]

How Can I Write about Freedom Now?

How can I write about freedom now, when the world (and my heart) is so often caged? How can I write about surrender when refugees are turned away? How can I write about joy when people of color are treated as unequal? I only have borrowed words to fill my empty cup: “How long, O […]

Pulling in the Anchor

      I am afraid of the sea.    Like my phobia of heights, this fear is at odds with the rest of me. For I am both a tree-climber (yes, at 37, still) and a beach lover. It is not the working my way up a rough trunk, finding toe-holds in knots and branches, but the […]

Surviving the Storm

I recently watched (read: sobbed through) an interview of a woman whose children were killed in the Tornado that savagely tore through Arkansas last year. One minute their hands were clasped together in the living room, the next she was face down, pantless, and severely injured, lying in a field of nothingness. But when she […]