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Wandering thoughts while walking-not-running barefoot

November 20, 2016


This morning’s sermon title: “The Way of Gratitude.”

Walking the Willow Trail a few hours ago at sunset in a November drizzle: as the trail got harder to see, my other senses kicked in and I felt scents: acrid moist dirt. Sharp-leafed musk of mule fat.


Fuzzy fruity yerba santa. Tangy, soft pillows of horse manure.


How to deal with things that fade:

Willow green leaf-shine,
this last rainy afternoon
light; my enthusiasm for life-
without-running. Then night.


It’s raining! Once again my hat brim drips. The knee-ward side of my pants gets soaked. Mud clumps up on the soles of my feet.

Maybe the stress fracture is feeling less stressed today? I try two gentle steps of jogging. Ouch. But I am able to walk for a couple of dusty (muddy?!) miles again.


Yesterday I spent in Hemet (what lovely mountain views) at a relative’s 70th birthday celebration: just recovering from hip surgery, she can hardly totter along behind her two-wheeled flimsy aluminum walker.

Absorbing Bach’s “Magnificat” (c. 1733) at my Lutheran church-from-birth this evening: pipe organ, orchestra with trumpets and timpani, choir in five parts. All Latin. “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” young Mary sang when she found out she was going to be great with child. When I was 15, I was not quite as pleased to discover I was pregnant. Mary and I shared Christmas-time due dates, making the holidays awkward for both of us (and our families).

Tonight, under our recently remodeled c.1914 neo-gothic sanctuary’s hundreds of too-bright, too-blue LED lights, I had difficulty seeing the choir members faces clearly from my usual spot in the back of the balcony. Earlier this afternoon my sister told me she was ready to schedule her cataract surgery.

I have been sitting up here for 57 years. “Did you hear about the religious skunk? He went to church every Sunday and sat in his own pew.” One of my favorite “balcony jokes.”

The anticipatory chaos of an orchestra tuning . . . and then the pause . . . and the baton and opening notes crash down together.

Who was listening to what on this sagebrush-covered flood plain in 1730?


The music and instruments of Europe continue to sound here, but not the native songs of this place.

That pall, the pull of “what happened here” . . . not always audible/sensory/logical, but still “real”?

A church friend came up to me before the start of the Bach concert to tell me he was taking his grandkids–our kids went to elementary school together here–to Grand Canyon’s South Rim this Friday on the Polar Express Christmas Train out of Williams, AZ.

Earlier today, after morning service, a middle-aged lady–who babysat my kids when she was a teenager–walked over to say “hi” to my visiting daughter (“I thought you were your mom!”) and to tell me she enjoyed following my Grand Canyon adventures on Facebook.


red toes red rock

My late teens/early 20s were an adventure in: diaper sniffing, diaper changing, diaper rinsing, diaper hanging-out-to-dry on the clothesline . . . I was a stay-at-home mom-of-three cliche, except I was always at least ten years younger than most of my PTA peers. Ongoing awkwardness then, maybe some good stories now. “When I was your age (16, 18, 22), I had (1, 2, 3) kids and a mortgage.” Husband, too, who is still good for a few laughs 41 years later.

Smelling like a soggy grandma, driving home from the trailhead at 5:30 this evening: wet Chapman Ave. reflects headlights, tail-lights on the way down El Modena Grade. There are memories that cannot be driven away when you’ve lived in the. Same. Place. All your life.


As I’ve written many times before, the willows along Santiago Creek just west of Irvine Park are cracking, falling, fragmenting in the drought, sometimes blocking the trail until chainsaw crews do something about it. The willow forest is a jumble of trunks and limbs.


It is full-fledged fall in The Willows–leaves yellow, drift, get soaked like me as I listen in the blessed rain. I hold still, hold my breath, and there is it, it is there, it’s here: leaf-drip percussion under a mitigated sycamore. (Planted here as if that would offset habitat lost to x-hundred/y-thousand houses elsewhere in Orange County.)

Walking walking walking. This place is so close to the edge of the continent you can hardly head west. I never learned to yodel, but it feels like time to try.

This morning’s sermon title: “The Way of Gratitude.”


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    November 22, 2016 12:00 pm

    Afternoon from Chicago Thea,
    So glad to read u r up and about – the world needs voices and conscious poets as yourself.
    Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving to u, yours and all your blog followers – Dave

    • November 22, 2016 2:28 pm

      Chicago! (My folks are from there.) Thanks for your kind thoughts, and for sending Thanksgiving greetings to all. Cheers, Thea

  2. November 21, 2016 11:46 am

    Hi Thea,
    Beautiful writing! And you have rain!
    I too go barefoot to Church, except I put on socks when I get in the door. It seems people are more comfortable if they don’t see my toes! Probably used to the socks in the house thing too. Didn’t God tell Moses to take off his shoes in the burning bush passage? Because this ground is holy!
    Still praying that you get to run. It does seem though that you are taking full advantage of this time of walking. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing!
    All the best, Scott

    • November 21, 2016 12:42 pm

      Hi Scott–I always appreciate your comments πŸ™‚ I was thinking of that “Moses moment” when I was writing the blog post, but it was already pretty full of digressions. (I’m teaching “collage essays” to my first-year writing class right now, and thought I’d give it a try . . . it was fun jumping from topic to topic.) And you are correct: one of the “blessings” that always comes out of being injured is it gives me more opportunities to go slow along the trail. My latest mantra as I wander along: “Notice something new.” (If my memory were better I’d give proper credit for where I first heard that phrase.) Happy (Thanksgiving!) Trails!

  3. Gina permalink
    November 21, 2016 7:28 am

    The beauty and pain in your writing is so raw I can feel it inside me, Thea. Thank you for being real. Would love to walk sometime….

    • November 21, 2016 7:35 am

      Thanks as always, Gina πŸ™‚ And you’re ready to walk again?! Let’s go! The trails will be closed a day or so because of last night’s awesome rain, and then Thanksgiving weekend family fun . . . so email a couple of dates in December that you’re free and let’s arrange a wander.

  4. Rob G. permalink
    November 21, 2016 6:39 am

    Hi Thea…GREAT post. Sort of takes it all in, soup to nuts. Like a native Cherokee, you have a strong sense of place, with whatever solace and regret get carried along. I’m glad you got to hear the music of rain and willow leaves, as well as the Bach…Barefoot-wise, back in the Summer, my organist and choir director’s wife was pulpit supply one Sunday, and exhorted the congregation to kick off their shoes. Some of us did just that, but I’m sure some of the Daughters of the Revolution were appalled! Same thing when a young mother recently had her child baptized. The mother was barefoot. I think I was the only one who saw that as a beautiful act of supplication and simplicity…
    Happy Thanksgiving…Rob g.

    • November 21, 2016 7:39 am

      Thanks for the nice note, Rob. “Soup to nuts” . . . that’s me (especially the “nuts” part). I loved your “barefoot in church” stories! I am still aiming for the day I will walk into church shoelessly–right now I wear sandals in, then (of course!) kick them off as soon as I reach my spot in that infamous St. John’s balcony πŸ™‚ But your story of the whole congregation getting encouraged to go barefoot . . . very cool! Happy Thanksgiving back to you; I am grateful this morning for your blog comments. Thea

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