Late Summer Evening

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Thanks to Vincent van Zalinge @vincentvanzalinge for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/CchPqypO8nE

The backyard has been a minefield of mud for the entire spring and summer months. The contractor we hired the end of April has used very excuse you can imagine as to why the work wasn’t complete.

As a teacher, I have heard many an excuse in my day as to why work wasn’t finished, why books weren’t brought to class, and why one child needed to insult another child. Often I have reminded students to simply stand tall and own their truth, even if they think they might “get in trouble” for it.

In my own life I have found that honest self reflection leads to growth.

Unfortunately, this contractor wasn’t interested in self reflection or growth. He was a poor communicator and gave excuses instead of owning his truth. Nearly four months later, he finally poured our patio. All the roots still aren’t trimmed around the edges of the patio, and the attention to finish details simply aren’t anywhere to be seen there, but we have a poured patio.

For now this is enough.

After the concrete patio was set, we hired these young men (with better communication skills, respect, and follow through than the older contractor) to build the gazebo kit we bought. They communicated clearly the dates they were available (all within the week’s time) and showed up right on time. When they finished there wasn’t so much as a scrap of paper lying about the yard. The job was finished above and beyond our expectations.
The work ethic and follow through of these young men restored my hope in builders.

Tonight Trace, Ev, and I sat out on the patio with our dear friend Jen, listening to the thrum of cicadas and watching the dragonflies dance in the evening sky.

Peaceful rest is what Jen called it, and I quite agree.

In those moments, I rediscovered my muse; it was the magic of the late summer garden at sunset.

Late Summer

Swarming dragonflies,
honking geese heading south—
they left me wondering how
the summer waned into fall
without word or warning.
All I did was blink.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Post Purity Culture

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Photo edited by Mariah Wilson; photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.

But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.

The list of rules for girls was quite long:

- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.

- Nakedness was something to cause shame.

- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.

- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.

- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.

- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.

- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.

- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.

- Only men have strong sex drives.

- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.

Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.

Purity Culture

Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
my DNA.

Be careful
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
or brassy.

No one likes
A brassy woman
Women are responsible
For the lusting found
In the hearts of men.

I tell myself
I have grown out
I have moved on
From such foolish
Patriarchal nonsense.

I tell myself
I have deconstructed
Whatever that means
I have separated
The truth from the lies.

Until something happens
And all of it comes
Rushing back—
Guilt, Anger,
And Burning Shame.

At the end
Of deconstruction
There remains a giant
Pile of rubble, one
Mess of mortified me.

But I own
Every last piece
Of senseless shame
Every tiny bit
Of damning guilt

I own my story
I own my future
I alone own
The power
to rebuild my life.

—cjpjordan

Fireflies and Summer Skies

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Photo Credit: Thank you and shoutout to toan phan.
Fireflies

Every evening
as the sun dips
low in the horizon
a calm settles.

Fireflies blink
in dusky
summer skies
while the fire crackles

and laughter
breaks into the night.
If I am brave
and open my widening

eyes to see
into the falling
darkness, I can
picture tomorrow

I can dream
I can feel hope
rising in
my bones—

the kind
of hope
that speaks truth
but lives dreams.

Every evening
as the fireflies dance,
if you know how
to listen for the whispers

of tomorrow,
you can tell yourself
who you want
to become.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Sunset

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Lake Isabella
Sunset

Orange ombre
tapestry covers
the sky-blue of day
until only a sliver

remains framing
the still life,
reflecting off
the tranquil waters

where a fruit bowl
of cantaloupe,
apricot, peach,
and tangerine

captivate my senses
so tangible
I can taste them
I can smell the earth

cooling from her
day’s work. As
the bee buzzes by
in his rush to get back

to the hive,
even he slows down
to savor the beauty.
Pause, Reflect, Savor—

a holy trinity,
a powerhouse,
an embodiment
of living well.


Muddy Waters

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Photo Credit: Thanks and Say shoutout to Ben Wicks.
Muddy Waters

People like me belong to the rain—
soaking in joy breathing out sorrow,
tending to the dark roots and pain—
a slow broadening of mossy green
spreading wide after the summer storm.

I stay alive in muddy waters
when the verdant swaddle of meadow
is drowned in brown. It’s there I sought her
to teach me the wisdom of the rain
and to not be afraid of the dark.

It is with her I learned where I belong
and how to navigate in a world
reeking with sunshine and sappy song.
Bring on the rain, for how else do I
stay alive when dusk darkens the light?

—By Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

I read a story this morning about the death of a lovely young Australian woman who was a farmer, ecologist, and inspiration to many on her TikTok.

Her family didn’t give details about her death, but her father said “every day should be ‘R U OK? Day,” a reference to an Australian holiday when people are encouraged to have conversations about mental health and suicide prevention with one another.

I absolutely agree.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are Ok. Don’t be afraid to push a little to encourage them to reach out to a professional.

There is no shame in needing help. Or asking someone if they need help.

It’s ok to not be ok.

How else can we stay alive when the rain comes and dusk darkens the light?

The Dreamers

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Photo Credit: Thanks and shoutout to Dan Smedley

Lately I have been reading through the Poetry Foundation website like a novel. Sometimes I search a theme, sometimes I just read through the site recommendations.

By doing this, I have discovered some amazing poets who were previously unknown to me, and I have also discovered some interesting forms of rhyme and meter.

I experimented today with a rather unusual rhyme scheme in an eight line stanza. It’s been so refreshing to take time each day and write. I’ll tell you, it does something good for my soul.

Never stop dreaming big dreams, friends—it’s the only way you’ll ever attain them.

Dreamers

On small boats, through the long canals, they came
settling in the lowlands, digging ditches
building dykes and drains, trying hard to tame
the water running uphill. They resolved
to change their thinking; new habits evolved
and soon sleek dwellings began to appear
great in hope and greater in scope than fear
until the gleaming wheat claimed their riches.

Tell me why it is that hordes of locust
love to swarm in the warm, wet month of May.
Sudden rain like the mind keenly focused,
calls and corrals a throng of living things.
And so folks lived like paupers on shoe strings
eating barley grass and growing green beans
while listening to the constant humming
of water flowing and tymbal thrumming.
None too soon, the greedy beasts flew away.

And then more dreamers came, some in sleek boats
skimming through the canals, seeking reprieve
from the mundane and stale in hull-less oats;
some carting a lifetime of hopes and dreams
in broken barges with leaking seams.
But come they did with courageous fervor,
to be farmer, builder, and observer—
full of faith, hope, and the power to believe.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Letting Go

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌 and shoutout to Максим Степаненко.

I took an old prompt and did some stream of consciousness writing. Interesting the things that hide out in our sub-conscious.

I started with a list of eight words and a task. Being a (sometimes over) achiever, I relish the accomplishments of tasks. So I set about this challenge with gusto.

As I have often said, poetry is one of the more uncontrolled writing options. Deep inside of each one of us, there are feelings and thoughts that we seldom give voice. Too often we bury how we really feel in exchange for what is expected of us to feel, or we respond how we are expected to respond by our circle of family and friends.

These words, and perhaps the book attached to the words, brought out some feelings buried just beneath the surface. I have spoken and written before about my complete disgust with platitudes. Too much of my childhood was spent listening to them in sermons or from well meaning members of that religious community. This poem reflects those feelings.

You can try this kind of stream of consciousness writing, too. I highly recommend everyone journal in some way. For me, it can be as cathartic as a good therapy session. (Sorry Kelly.)

Here is what you can do:

Grab the closest book.
Go to page 29.
Write down 10 words that catch your eye.
Use 7 or 8 of those words in a poem.
For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.

My word list included these gems:

Supersaturated
Concede
Let go
Strong shouldered
Wayward
Empty
Need
Achieve

Once you have gathered your list of words, see what they say to you and put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and start writing! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did.

Let It Go

Suck up the sorrow like a sweet
slurpy through a straw, head resting
in hands as if to catch the pain.
Let go. Empty yourself of need.

Go on, give in, concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit—
It is the Lord’s will after all.
He is Sovereign over our pain;

we are supersaturated
in the spirit and strong-shouldered;
we are weak-kneed, walking wayward.
We are walking in the true light;

Let go. Empty yourself of need
go on, give in—concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit.
It is the Lord’s will after all,

for God is in control, sister;
and he will never give you more
than you can bear. You can trust him
with all your heartbroken pieces.

You need to trust in letting go
and letting God. No one else but God.
But you see, I stand here alone,
in pain, and straining to maintain

any remnant of dignity. How?
Tell me, how did we believe
all of the crazy platitudes
undermining good common sense?

How is grief less of a burden
thinking that it is for our best,
believing that God allowed this
pain for our growth and his pleasure?

I let go of sorrow, let go
of dignity in heaving sobs
with incoherent words that say
just how much I don’t understand.

I stand up, cry out, stamp my feet
shout out loud how ruthless and cruel
life can be. I don’t shout at God;
I acknowledge the suffering

and let it go. I breathe out and
release the pain; but when I can’t,
I concede. There isn’t always
a reason—don’t suck in, let go.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Live With Gusto

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌
and a great big shoutout to Chilli Charlie

This particular writing challenge was to write a poem that stretches my comfort zone with line breaks. Well, this poem stretched my comfort level with many things.

At first I thought perhaps I’d write a poem with very long lines, or maybe one with very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two? Who knows what that might look like? I vacillated between all of these ideas.

Maybe breaking apart lines to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or creating a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought might be the way to go.

My method was to read several different poems, and then I began to write. Every poem and its process brings out some different part of myself. Even the story poems that are outside of my personal experience have a piece of me woven into them.

Before posting this poem, I was reading the story of a sweet friend who has deconstructed and reconstructed the faith and religion of her youth. I could totally connect with all that she shared.

For each one of us the process is different, but I hope for each one of you that you love and live near the edge of the world with gusto.

Dry Bones

She loved

near the edge of the world
with gusto
if not lunacy.
she chose unity
with herself.

She lost her vision
from living in the darkness—
the rose colored glasses
foggy from flashes
of light.

A ray of hope
in no man’s land
she teetered on the edge
of the cliff. The sedge
a sign

of her dry bones.
the moon rose
unbidden,
nearly hidden
by love.

She loved
wild and reckless—
in the light
no danger of flight—
I think.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Grateful

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Thanks to Nathan Dumlao @nate_dumlao for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/KYiGu8qqEcM

Thanks to the generosity of an out-of-town friend, who is just here for a couple of weeks, I was able to visit Trace today.

Thanks to the generosity of our friends and dog trainers, the dogs have been able to have an extended stay at a reduced rate.

Thanks to another friend who offered to host Ev, I will be able to pick up Tracy when she comes home from the hospital.

I’m overwhelmed with the love and phone calls, with the encouraging words, and with the prayer that has been offered to us.

We are grateful.

Thank you one and all.

grateful 

for sun and rain for glen and grove
for paths too steep and overgrown
for friends who love without reserve
for healing in transparency
grateful.

for docks and dips in darkness deep
for freedom found in letting go
for the joy of finding new love
for tears that cleanse body and soul
grateful.

for maladies that mend our faith
for stones that build our broken walls
for the strength bound up in heartache
for the power of weakness known
grateful.

for life and breath, for strength in hope
for knowledge and wisdom and truth
for the freedom in forgiveness
for the power of grace imbued
grateful.

for everyday bits of holy
in our everyday lives profane
for everyday pleasures profound
I staunchly rejoice and remain
grateful.

When Worlds Collide

Coffee in a styrofoam cup—not my favorite, but I am happy we are able to enjoy our coffee together.

What a day!

At 7 am the nurse (under doctor orders) ripped Tracy off her pain pump without making sure her pain was managed.

I probably don’t need to tell you how awful the day was. We spent most of it trying to get back on top of the pain. Trace was crying and her pain all day was largely unmanageable. It was dreadful.

Friends, even I had a hard time.

More than once the tears spilled over in my eyes out of sheer helplessness. At one point, I realized I wasn’t helpless; I had power to help her because I still had my voice.

And one voice has power.

I teach my students this at school, and I believe it to be true. You have a voice, use it wisely. So I made a choice to use my voice and made some phone calls to her surgeon; I also reached out to the hospital case manager.

Once I started reaching out, I found many folks with empathy. The pain management doc isn’t usually at this hospital on Wednesdays, but when he heard what was going on, he came all the way from his Novi clinic after a full work day, just to see Tracy. He reordered the pain pump—administered and weaned differently—and she found some relief.

We finally (both of us) (mostly) slept.

She is up, asked for coffee and her phone and is looking at a breakfast menu. First time she’s wanted to do any of that.

Thank you God for answered prayer and (finally) a pain pump returned!

When Worlds Collide

When worlds collide,
life changes in a way
that is never quite
the same again.

Our path lies
where we choose to
walk (or fly)—not
the beaten path

and maybe not
even the road less
travelled, but where we
establish our rest.

We choose life
near the cool waters
feasting on simple rhythms—
sunrise and sunset,

morning and evening.
One giant living hum—
peace amidst the chaos—
in the middle

of every thing.
We sing our stories
rejoicing in each moment
when worlds collide.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan