On Earth Day, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, my favorite U.S. President

There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country. Just as we must conserve our men, women and children, so we must conserve the resources of the land on which they live.” –Theodore Roosevelt


Maundy Thursday and Stories and Stinky Feet

By Mum's taxi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mum’s taxi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This is Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. For those who consider themselves Christian, this is really the pinnacle of the Christian calendar. I do count myself under this umbrella, but perhaps more low-key and uncomfortable and open than some others who also live in this large and diverse tent. I hesitated before writing this post, but I wanted to share one of my favorite stories.

Today is Maundy Thursday, which is considered the night of the last supper shared by Jesus and His Disciples. This is before His Crucifixion on what we now call Good Friday and before Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. There is obviously more to the story, but I am sharing the general aspects, so that we can think about the particulars on our own.

I tend to think of Linus, from Peanuts, who wisely said, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” With good friends and certain family members who understand me, though, I love to talk about religion and politics. At the very least, if you think about it, religion and politics provide us with stories. And there is nothing more human than sharing a story, whether it’s your spouse sharing the funny story about the work day, or a long, rambling story about your summer canoe trip, or the long-held traditions of stories we tell our children, or the stories that get passed down in cultures.

My favorite part of all religions, and I love to read and learn more about them, is the stories. Sometimes we can find surprisingly similar stories shared among most of the world’s major religions. How we interpret these stories, and how people argue about whose story is the “most true” is the stuff of wars and violence and major disagreements.

Whether you look to Jesus as the center of your spirituality, or you see Him as a thoughtful storyteller, or you are not sure what you think, or you disagree completely, let us consider the story of Maundy Thursday.

I am not a theologian, nor do I ever think of myself as a religion expert, but this is probably my very favorite story in the Christian canon. Jesus and His Disciples were Jews. They were celebrating the Passover Ceder, or the feast of unleavened bread. Passover is celebrated by Jews, marking their Exodus from enslavement in Egypt. They left quickly, so they didn’t have time for bread to rise, hence the unleavened bread. So, Jesus and His Disciples were to share the Passover Ceder together. But Jesus knew that things were very quickly going to change and He warns His flock of His soon-to-be death. Importantly, He greets His Disciples and begins to wash their feet.

Now, let us think about feet for a moment. Our hands tend to be dirtier in terms of the surfaces they touch and the number of germs they are exposed to, but most of us think of feet as pretty gross and they tend to be stinky and sweaty. In the time of Jesus, sandals were the mainstay of footwear and feet washing was pretty important when travel was almost entirely by foot and on dusty roads. Feet washing was an important step before sharing a meal together. People sat at low tables and their feet were visible and obvious. Foot washing would often have been a servant’s task, or the job of each person to wash their own feet. But Jesus greeted the Disciples and offered to wash their feet.

He was showing humility, and showing the importance of service. I think that Jesus’ main teaching is to love and to serve. The Disciples, in contrast, were arguing about who was the most important and not about who should be in service to each other. At first, the Disciples react in an embarrassed and haughty way to His offer. But Jesus explains and quietly begins the ritual. And then they share their last meal together. This time, as bread is broken, Jesus says, “This is my body.” This time, as the wine is shared, Jesus says, “This is my blood.” And He asks them to, “Do this is in remembrance of me.” This becomes the centerpiece of Christian tradition, theology, and the metaphor for a larger-than-life-event that will occur. This last supper is also when He commands them to love one another.

Think of “The Last Supper” as we often do, with Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting and its myriad of reproductions. The picture, above, is a beautiful depiction of the foot washing and also of the last meal. Today, and tonight, many churches will be celebrating Maundy Thursday with mass, or communion, and some will take part in the ritual of foot washing. We think of it now as spiritually representative of our belief. I have always loved this tradition.

When I was growing up, our little church often had its members line up, and one after the other, feet were washed. When your feet were washed, you performed the ritual for the next person in line. It was an exercise in love and service and humility and familiarity. Easter, depending upon the year, can be celebrated as early as late March and as late as the end of April. Growing up in New Mexico meant that this day could feel as hot and dry as a summer day or as cold and snowy as any winter day. So you might have really hot smelly feet to wash, or really cold stale feet to wash. Today in Colorado, it is snowing after several days in the 70s.

Maundy comes from the Latin word for “command.” On this night, Jesus commands His Disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.” He does this in service and humility. He is commanding and teaching us to love and to serve. He is embracing humility in the presence of stinky feet.We all have feet and they are all stinky at some point.

If you celebrate Easter, peace be with you. If you don’t celebrate Easter, peace be with you. Let there be love at this time, no matter what.

Let us remember that love and stories bring us all together, no matter what. We all can love and serve and share stories, no matter our beliefs and traditions. We all can love and serve and share stories, stinky feet or not.

Writing Dreams and the Ability to Fail

Writing dreams start with the blank page.

Writing dreams start with the blank page.

Writing has been a dream of mine since I was little and curled up with my favorite books. Often we don’t know what form or shape our dreams will take as we grow and change. From the age of about 22, when I graduated from college, the dream of writing I pretty much squelched or stuffed into the overflowing suitcase of my life, figuring I did not have enough time or talent or focus to move forward with it. I would write letters to friends or send long e-mail missives, but that was usually the extent of my writing. Often ideas for books and essays and plays and even bad poems flew into my head and then flitted right out again.

As I am constantly reminded by a dear friend, even yesterday he nudged me with this reminder, “A try is failure before even starting.” In other words, doing and failing miserably is better than a half-hearted attempt where you do not really put yourself out on the line. For me, writing makes me vulnerable and I tend to write from a very personal viewpoint. Writing and seeking publication is a way to really commit, to know that I may be flying, even if I am flying into failure. It is making those dreams come true. It’s more about the bravery of the act, than it may be about the end result. I can write. I can submit things for publication. I cannot control what the editor decides, but I can bask in the relative bravery of my attempt. I can scoop myself up after life’s failures and try to make sense of it in words. I can look to a heartbreak and try to find the universal lesson that connects us all.

Finally, one day, I decided to blow out the fire of negative talk and see what dreams remained in the ashes. Now in my 30s, I was a bit more realistic about my dreams, especially after seeing people whom I thought were much more talented writers publish very little. In 2010, I started this blog, but did not really begin to make serious and regular entries until the summer of 2012. I realized that my dream of writing was really about writing, not so much about selling millions of books or having my name become a household one. The blog allowed or provided the space for an audience should they choose to find it and read. I shared with friends on Facebook and then made a couple of blog friends, one in California and one in Norway who regularly read and “like” my stuff. Then I slowly ventured into the world of publishing. Did what I have to say resonate with others? Could I shape my words to fit a publication?

I took a couple of writing classes in college and then a couple of classes at a nonprofit literary center in my early 20s. I picked up some writing books and read enough writing magazines to know that getting published, sometimes, is as much about the hustle as it is the flow of words. You have to send editors your work. You have to know how to sell your words in a pithy query letter. Perhaps, this is why I have yet to be published in any kind of a publication that requires said pithy query letter.

Instead, I looked for the invitations. Which publications (online and in print) were seeking words? Which editors didn’t care as much about the query letter as they did the questions I was asking in my writing? I looked to the familiar and unfamiliar and found a few possibilities.

The spring of 2012 was my first “act of bravery” in writing. The city library was publishing an anthology compiled of essays, short stories, and poetry from local residents. I saw the call for entries and began thinking. The deadline fell on a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-March. The morning of the deadline, I still had not submitted anything, but finished work early, around 1 in the afternoon. I brought my laptop and stationed myself in a study carrel and wrote about creativity. I could hear the library clock tick away as I wrote and then did a quick proofread. With barely five minutes to spare, I saved the hastily-written essay to a CD and nervously wandered downstairs to the front desk to submit my writing. Driving home that late afternoon reminded me of being on the finish line of a track race in high school, I was spent, gasping for air, and trying hard not to vomit. I gave myself a pat on the back for following up and finishing and I gave myself a kick in the butt for thinking I could write for publication in a last-minute effort.

Beginning in December 2012 through today, I have gotten braver. Writing dreams come true in fits and starts. Now, I regularly write for this blog. Occasionally, I will submit a piece of writing to a publication. I applied for and was accepted into a writing retreat (which I have delayed until money and a project are ripe for the time). I am in the midst of work on a book of short stories and writing and pulling this project together has been the scariest and most fun I have had. Whether or not it ever becomes a published book, who knows, but I am excited to work on and complete such a big project. Much like a runner runs a marathon to test boundaries, writing a book-length work is testing my commitment, my imagination, my ability.

A couple of weeks ago, an essay of mine was published in Elephant Journal. In two weeks, I will attend a local reading for the library anthology and read part of an essay. I will find three essays and a short story of mine published in that book. These are dreams and signs of my commitment. I am daring and dreaming and it feels wonderful. Sometimes it helps to take stock, sometimes it helps to look back and remember the beginning. Here are links to a few things of mine that have been published (online) in the last couple of years, because I want to share and remember those attempts at living and failure, when I stopped talking and started doing.
Elephant Journal, “This is How I’m Letting Go of my Crush” March 2015

Upper Room, “Loving Doubting Thomas” December 2014
(This one you will need to create a log-in to be able to read, as it is in the archives.)

Upper Room blog post, “God Is My Solace” December 2014

Community Works Journal, “The Power and Wonder of Names: Where Nature and Language Coincide”, September 2014

Community Works Journal, “A Love Letter to Environmental Educators, My Profession, and My Colleagues”, July 2013 http://www.communityworksinstitute.org/cwjonline/essays/a_essaystext/enviro_loveletter.html

What are your long-held dreams? What are your biggest attempts at failure, or success? When did you really put yourself out there? When did you go from dreaming to doing? What are the little acts that constitute bravery, for you? When did you fail? When were you last comfortable with failure?

Sometimes it helps to look forward and see the possibilities. Always, though, it helps to go beyond dreaming, beyond trying, to doing. Sometimes it’s the little acts of bravery that lead to bigger things and failures. It helps to fail and pick yourself up and start again. For me, writing is only part of it. It is helping me to put my heart out there. It is helping me to give and live with everything I have. It is going out there every day in life and saying, “I’m gonna,” as my dear and wise friend says, no matter the results.

Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ March 30, 2015

Kary Schumpert @runningintolife:

Yes, the more I write, the more I want to write! I love this blog and their Monday posts are a great way to start the week, with inspiration and intention!

Originally posted on Studio Mothers: Life & Art:

Erasmus on writing

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and…

View original 150 more words

Tripping in a Time Machine

The time machine: old papers, objects, pictures, and memories.

Four boxes of stuff. Papers. Clutter. Memorabilia.

I have spent the last couple of nights doing an archeological dig in the life of Kary, of my life. I dumped out the boxes and sifted into piles according to timeline. A tiny elementary pile, a towering high school pile, a colossal college pile (really, not just for the beauty of alliteration), and then three small piles of my “adult life” separated by geography (the few months in Albuquerque, the six years in the Twin Cities, and the ten years living in Colorado).

Sifting through the memorabilia, I found: notes from high school friends folded in that particular school-note-origami-way, high school track medals and ribbons, numerous certificates of participation and appreciation, newspaper clippings, issues of newspapers from high school and college that I helped edit and write, long letters from friends and my younger sister, birthday cards and graduation cards, notes from my mother, postcards from friends and family, and, well, a lot of other papers. Oh, and lots and lots of photographs, some faded, some blurry, but most full of the faces of the friends and family I love.

I sifted through some of this a couple of years ago and then found another box of paper in the last year, stuffed in between some boxes of my mother’s in her storage closet. I knew I needed to deal with this stuff, but left it tucked away for another day. In the past ten months, I have moved and downsized my belongings dramatically. I have gotten rid of boxes of books, oodles of clothes and shoes, lots of odds and ends, and some furniture. Even better, I made deliberate decisions to intentionally keep all the stuff that stayed behind. The four boxes of papers lurked in a corner of the garage, casting a shadow.

So, now I deal with the shadows, or rather the boxes. Right now, though, I stop to write about them. Why is it that I was so eager to rid myself of un-useful-to-me-objects, but I can’t quite part with a few boxes of papers that I haven’t seen in twenty years? What is the root of my reluctance?

I have been doing a lot of personal work (internally, spiritually, physically, mentally) in the last year. I have been cleaning up, clearing out, calming down, and cutting through lots of things. It has been a truly grueling and gratifying process. I have grown and learned and changed a great deal, but somehow the papers paralyze me.

Last night, faced with the piles on the living room floor, I called a good friend from work. She is wise, funny, and always seems to have the right thing to say. I texted four other friends to see how they have dealt with the papers and stuff from their past. I like getting lots of perspectives and then figuring out which approach, or multiple approaches, suits me. My work friend responded in the way I thought she might. First, she laughed a big and long deep laugh. Then, she said she was dealing with old stuff too, but her best advice was, “Don’t beat yourself up over it! Celebrate what you have done!” Amen, sister! One friend, in a succinct text, replied that he kept one box which had childhood, high school, and college. He said to keep the amount that made me comfortable. A good college friend responded that she thought she had mostly just letters and personal notes from the high school and college era. Another friend shared her remorse about not having anything left from her life before the age of 25 after she did a big purge at that critical quarter-century mark. Another friend reminded me that part of my reason for the purge was to lighten my load and to emphasize where living truly is, in the present moment.

Today, I am grateful for my wise and funny friends. I have decided to take a bit of all their advice. I have designated the smallest storage box as the one in which I will keep the treasures. Now, I will sift into three piles: keep, toss, or recycle. I will throw the old political buttons into scrap metal, recycle a ton (well, close) of paper, toss the small plastic souvenirs (the “unnecessary plastic objects” as Nanci Griffith sings), keep some track medals and ribbons because I love those memories, and sift through the photos. The ones that aren’t duplicates will make their way into a couple of albums. I am saving some of the letters from loved ones, but discarding all the rotely-signed greeting cards.

Now, the task seems less daunting and more doable. I will not let the past paralyze me or weigh me down. I look forward to now, this moment, but I am grateful for the chance to look back and reflect on the memories, friends, family, and events that have shaped me. We do not need stuff to remind us. We can use our brains and hearts to remember when it will help us, but we can also use our brains and hearts to breathe in and consider the present moment. It is the only one that truly counts.

Gratitude For the Little Things


The word gratitude gets tossed around a lot in November when Thanksgiving nears. It also seems to be gaining ground in popular culture with gratitude journals and gratitude lists. While things that get popular tend to bug me, and I am a pretty mainstream kind of girl, this is a pleasing trend. Something as powerful as gratitude should get attention year-round and not just as a result of a holiday or a pop-culture phenomenon.

Sometimes, we do need the reminder, the prompt. On the days where gratitude does not come spilling out of my being, or when I get carried away in mundane routines, it helps to return to the source of gratitude, the heart. Sometimes, to return to the heart it helps to make a list of the people, the emotions, the things that fill the heart with gratitude. For me, the list can be long and varied. But, almost always it’s for the little things. Some items on the list have deep meaning, some items on the list are more superficial. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things that fill me with gratitude today.

*a mug of hot tea
*chilly days
*receiving a text message from a good friend
*playing board games with my family
*poems that make me cry
*a fireplace, with or without a fire
*a long run at the beginning of the day
*a long road trip
*zipping my tent at night
*pre-schoolers who are excited to see me when I come to teach
*a stranger holding the door for me
*snow caught on winter branches
*realizing a long-held dream
*being on the threshold of meeting a big and scary goal
*the moon, at any time, in any phase
*the crack of a spine of a new composition notebook
*shivering and then enjoying warmth under one of my grandmother’s quilts
*sending a handwritten letter to a friend in the mail
*wearing cowboy boots with my favorite faded jeans
*going to a concert of an artist I love and singing along
*eating watermelon (seeds and all) and strawberries (tops and all) in summer
*digging in a compost bin
*repotting plants into terra cotta pots
*the beauty of daffodils in early spring
*walking alone at midnight
*catching up with a good friend over tea, a run, or shared food
*laughing until I cry
*crying until I laugh
*unintended puns
*writing words that resonate with someone else
*wearing a turtleneck and corduroy jeans (my favorite outfit since I was three)
*a fabulously fake and gaudy bling ring on my finger
*a bookshelf full of good books
*framed pictures of family and friends, and my favorite art, hung on the walls
*learning something new that is difficult enough to make my head hurt
*pausing and taking a deep breath
*a good country song
*reading late into the night, bleary-eyed
*a good long soak in the bathtub (and saving for rare occasions to savor the water)
*New Mexico
*the pitter patter of my heart when I have opened myself up to be honest and vulnerable

What fills you with gratitude? What would be on your list today?