What Did Madeleine L’Engle mean….?


I’m currently reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Circle of Quiet” and I’m wondering if anyone knows what she means in the last line of Part 1, entry 19:

“I wonder if I will ever learn not to apologize for the obvious?”



Posted in book recommendations | 3 Comments

Snippets from ESL Class


When the young mother from Syria learns the word ‘scarf’ becomes ‘scarves’ when made plural, it’s like she’s discovered gold, she’s so delighted. This small thing.

It turned colder on Monday. I took the last of the collected scarves, gloves, hats and ear warmers and I stood by the exit after class, watching students go out into the wind, supplying needs as I saw them. I’ve noticed it takes a long time for the women who’ve spent their lives in warmer climates to get used to dressing for our winter weather. Here it is, beginning of February, and they are just beginning to wear their coats. What are they saving them for?

I gave away my favorite pumpkin scarf. It’s seen better days. I thought of sending it to Goodwill a few times, but never could because I was so crazy for the color and feel of it. But a Congolese student was heading out with a bare neck and my bag was empty. I stood there, bundled to the very top of my head, almost overdressed. My car was 50 feet from the door. She would be walking several blocks to the bus stop, then waiting. So I unwrapped the pumpkin scarf and wrapped it on her, warmth still in it. We walked out together into the wind. I don’t miss the scarf.

An agency director came and gave a short talk to the class about the executive order that’s dominated the news, explaining it while we had interpreters present for a special presentation on parenting. Questions were invited. Answers, if known, were given. Then we moved on. It is important for people to feel heard and to be able to ask questions in calmness and safety.

We have a new student from Iraq. The family received death threats after assisting the US military, so they fled the country. She is lovely, a 32-year-old mother of three and she’s undergoing treatment for cancer. She’s had chemo in a few different countries. Today she’s receiving it here. Tomorrow she’ll be back in class. It takes everything out of her to come to class and afterwards she is wiped out for the day.

I saw the young mother from Syria telling the new student about ‘scarf’ and ‘scarves,’ and the Iraqi woman writing it in her notebook, smiling. A new language is built one word at a time.

Posted in friendship, refugees, Uncategorized | 3 Comments



YOU’VE BEEN READING IT as it came out, warts and all. Thank you for that and for the messages you sent. When I went back to the draft, it was too long for my liking. I told Wally, “I don’t have a good poem, but I do have a good story.” I think I needed the reminder. Anyway…..you might kill me, but I’ve trimmed it to 76 words (from 377). Yes, I had to let go of a few lines I liked a lot, but what it lacks in depth and color, it gains in universality, I think. Here it is:

Slowly I slide stitches off needle,
tug yarn
and watch the unraveling
I’ve needed to accept,
that things will not turn out as first imagined.

Winding the heap of tangles
back into a ball,
I see
what for so long I could not,
that what remains behind
has the makings
of something else, also beautiful
and not destined to always be
the thing that didn’t turn out
but the thing that went on to become.

THANK YOU for the insights you’ve shared while being careful not to tell me how to write it. The biggest risk was that someone might say something that would make me stop or switch hats to editing mode too soon and I’d begin to examine the words before they’d all had a chance to come together. I needed it all to come out and be said. For those who requested seeing the whole draft all together in one place:

UNRAVELING (draft version)
I slide the stitches
off the needle slowly,
tug on the yarn
and watch the unraveling.

It feels like an act of violence.

When the boy had said
“I wish I had an earwarmer like that,”
I went home
and cast about for
perfect pattern,
perfect yarn,
perfect color,
then set in place a plan,
a perfect time each day
to work rows
in multiples of eight.

It had been a year then
since I’d seen him
and it could be another year again.
Or less. Or more. Or maybe never.
I hung by a thread, never knowing,

Nightly I picked up the needles.

Kitchen tidy, everything
the appearance of order.
It was then
heart and mind
tip-tapped along together
knitting the details
of all that had happened.

I had not anticipated,
not allowed to slip in,
that I’d be carrying along
on the back
the bobbin of estrangement
every row
every stitch.

Cables emerged,
twisting and turning.
so many my eye could not discern
where a braid began,
where it was heading
or how we’d come to this point,
until the weight was more than I could carry
and I had to put it down.

I kept it contained
in a cheerful quilted bag
that sat beside my dresser
like a patient in a waiting room,
expecting, every shuffle of activity,
to hear his name called,
but no call comes.
There was nothing in the instructions about this.

(I write these lines while sitting in a waiting room.)

Answers come at their appointed times.

Here, it was two weeks ago Tuesday,
a completely unremarkable morning,
when, first time in two years,
I peeked in the bag
to remember the exact shade of green I had loved.
Right then, sudden and expected, it came –
quietly, quickly,
gentle as a feather falling:
I don’t need to knit this anymore.

It took a few days to muster courage, but now
I slide stitches
off a needle,
and watch
the unraveling I’ve needed to accept,
that things will not finish the way I first imagined
…and it’s okay.

I see now
what I could not see for so long,
that something beautiful can still be made
of what remains behind.

Posted in poem in the works, poems, writing | 8 Comments