You Gotta Eat

I'm not a great cook. I like food but I'm not fussy about it. I go for chips, dip, pasta, pudding and popcorn (well, not together). And Diet Coke with everything.

And yet, I enjoy making soup and baking cookies — the lingering, low-pressure foods.

That's why, in part, I am buying this book for friends and family (Spoiler Alert: Merry Christmas!): Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day.

 “I think everyone should eat great food every day,” says Leanne Brown, author and food scholar (yes, that's a real thing). "Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill. Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.”

Just as any recipe is more than its individual ingredients, this book is more than the routine instruction manual. Good and Cheap is research project, grassroots activism and cookbook all-in-one!

Learn all about this unique book and its author at 3 Good Books, the blog series I host.





Letter to No One, Someone, You

What tools do you use in your writing practice, she asked.

I write letters to a friend, I said, on paper and in my head. 

Death is not a crisis.

A friend said this years ago, and we built a book around the idea — Sweet Grief.

She painted through the death of her husband and I wrote poems alongside her experience. We took the show on the road, packed up paintings and poems and travelled to galleries. See, we said, this is death but it’s not horrible. It’s a passage in pretty pictures and poems.

But what did I know? How tender it now seems, how naive. Because now I’m in a storm, and all around is pain and grief that swallows, spits and keens — and that feels a lot like a crisis.

After the swirl of events and activities, the meal train, flowers and full fridge, life turns inward, turns still. Sadness works into the crevices, lodges deep. We don’t want to go home. And we don’t want to go out. This is what the living do, and the dying too: wait, cry, wait.

The house is quiet, she tells me, and sad. 

Don’t get me wrong.

I knew death. Before this, I knew illness and loss. Friends, neighbors, grandparents, grief. But each loss is fresh, and old, and resurrected.

Don’t get me wrong, I know nothing.

Years ago, my neighbor was “poet laureate” of her church. Each week she would share a poem with her congregation. When she was dying she gave me her poetry books — a stack of Mary Oliver and David Whyte, and several others that I took home, placed lovingly on my bookshelf, and forgot.

Last month I opened one, a thick anthology, Cries of the Spirit. And I've made it my own. Dozens of pages are now marked, lines rising to meet me:

Prayer is


we may not

reach around,

space for all we cannot hold,

the rim of Love toward which we lean.


- excerpt from Nothing So Wise
by Jeanne Lohmann

Pray until you believe, my mother says.

Each in our own way, we're crying, feeling, praying. Isn't it all the same? I want to make this suffering beautiful, our sorrow poetic, but it’s not. It’s eating too much, sleeping too late, talking and not talking. It is lashing out and curling up. It is, at turns, loud and hard, soft and slow. It is never quite right.

Not long ago, my husband and I paddled our boards across the Columbia River, against wake, wave, wind and swirl.

Confused seas, he called it, a sailing term to describe current, wind, and wake at competing angles. Well that’s a metaphor, I said, and a few moments later my jaunty aside turned to tears, and he scrambled across waves to comfort me as I screamed, no, no, no, you’ll tip me. And so, as a barge passed, fishermen fished and sailors sailed, we sat on ours boards in the center of the river, and I sobbed.

Because everyone is sick or dying. Because sadness is no excuse, not tool or aid. It does not act. It does not do. Because it is not enough to absorb and feel. Because one must do and help and sometimes fix. Because I cannot fix. Because grief immobilizes and I want to do good, do better, do something.


    Let me be tricked into believing

    that by what moves in me I might be saved,

    and hold to this. Hold

    onto this until there’s wind enough.


- excerpt from To a Milkweed
by Deborah Digges





Love that Line: Random Bad Luck

Somewhere along the way, people in this country had developed the assumption that life should be unvaryingly logical and just — there was no recognition of random bad luck, no allowance for tragedies that couldn't be prevented by folic acid or side airbags or FAA-approved safety seats." 

- Anne Tyler
The Amateur Marriage 



Fierce Field Guide


    I write in hopes 

of recognizing myself

and seeing you more clearly.

I want to know when truth 

turns from solid to liquid

to gas in the alchemy of  


— Sage Cohen


Sage Cohen, author of Fierce on the Page, is now featured on 3 Good Books, a blog series I host. 

Please join me there, go here




Thankful Thursday (on Friday): Kindness

Photo by Rajah Bose/Gonzaga University, via On Being

It's been a rough week and my defenses are low. Sometimes a poem arrives just when you need it. One of my favorite poems and poets popped up this week. 

Naomi Shihab Nye was recently featured on the radio program On Being.

First, the poem: 


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

- Naomi Shihab Nye


And the interview (transcript and podcast): here.

There are so many gems in this interview. Here are a few nuggets:

Writing things down, whatever you’re writing down, even if you’re writing something sad or hard, usually you feel better after you do it. Somehow, you’re given a sense of, “OK, this mood, this sorrow I’m feeling, this trouble I’m in, I’ve given it shape. It’s got a shape on the page now. So I can stand back, I can look at it, I can think about it a little differently. What do I do now?” And very rarely do you hear anyone say they write things down and feel worse.


You could write a little and still gain something from it. You don’t have to be spending an hour and a half to three hours to five hours a day writing to have a meaningful experience with it. It’s a very immediate experience. You can sit down and write three sentences. How long does that take? Three minutes. Five minutes. And you're giving yourself a very rare gift of listening to yourself.


And so I would get in a little trouble, and my mother would say to me — her charge to me — “Be your best self.” And I would think, “Wow, what is that self? Where is it? Where is it tucked away? Where do I keep it when I’m not being it? And are you your best self? Is my teacher her best self?”

That was just something intriguing to me that we had more than one self that we could operate out of. And I think one nice thing about writing is that you get to encounter, you get to meet these other selves, which continue on in you: your child self, your older self, your confused self, your self that makes a lot of mistakes. And then find some gracious way to have a community in there inside that would help you survive.


It's Thankful Thursday and I'm filled with gratitude for poems that move me to my soft self, my best self. 

And you — what are you thankful for today?