Shoveling Shit and Hollering Whoa

digging the basement

My Grandpa and my Dad digging the basement for our home, about 1948.

“No matter who gets elected,” my grandpa used to say, “we’ll still be shoveling shit and hollering whoa.” He didn’t believe politicians would do much to change his life for the better, but he did believe he and his family would keep on going.

Grandpa and Grandma, Henry and Mary Turck, lived through the 1918 flu and the Great Depression. Though they both survived 1918, one of Grandpa’s older sisters was among the 600,000 people who died of that flu in the United States. The 1918 flu killed somewhere between one and two million people worldwide, more than one percent of the world’s population at the time. Continue reading


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Watching Oak Trees

oak tree close-upCrisp leaves cling tenaciously
through blustering blizzard days,
through shivering sub-zero nights,
shining copper against crisp blue skies

Where winter winds failed,
now spring’s soft invitation comes:
sap rises, rain falls, and
old leaves let go at last.

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Getting Healthier During a Pandemic


Counter-intuitive as it seems, staying at home during the worst health crisis of my lifetime might make me a lot healthier. I am walking: four or five or six miles a day. I am re-connecting with friends by phone, since I can’t see them in person. I am cooking and baking, so our meals are much healthier. Which brings me to tonight’s success story: crusty bread!

I’ve tried to make crusty bread for years. Recipe after recipe failed. I tried high heat, low yeast, different shapes, misting the tops of loaves with water before baking; and carefully putting a pan of water in the oven while the bread baked to create moisture.

Nothing worked.

Until now. Continue reading

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Connecting Across Six Feet of Separation


Thanks, Voni!

Even keeping six feet of separation, people find ways to reach out and help others during the coronavirus crisis. This morning’s email brought news from the Union Park District Council, our St. Paul neighborhood organization.

“If you or someone you know is immunocompromised, elderly, sick, or otherwise concerned for any reason and needs help during this outbreak of the coronavirus–your neighbors want to help you!”

Continue reading

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Pandemic on Shabbat

1600px-Shabbat_Candles“Pandemic” is a poem/meditation by Lynn Ungar, a poet and Unitarian minister. I’ve seen it in a number of places, and find it lovely. I’m republishing here with Lynn’s permission.


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar, Unitarian Minister, 3/11/20


[Because I liked this poem so much, I looked for more. Lynn publishes many of her poems on her website. You can also order her book of poetry, Bread and Other Miracles. I’m waiting for my copy to arrive!]


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Holding on to Hope

IMG_5998Spring sparks hunger for green and growing. Through the storm sewer grates along the side of the street, spring melt burbles and gurgles. Today’s sodden skies and drizzle felt soft as spring, though winter returns tomorrow. Walking around the neighborhood, I look for the first green spears rising from still-frozen ground. Continue reading

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Blackbirds Singing

blackbird on cattail

Photo by Kurt Bauschardt, published under Creative Commons license

I woke to the Beatles this morning, courtesy of Alexa’s wake-up setting:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

When I opened the back door and stepped out into darkness, I heard real blackbirds singing. Continue reading

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Fighting Back on St. Patrick’s Day


From our 2015 visit to Ireland—a view of Inisheer.

This nasty little virus and the accompanying doom and gloom and isolation have got my Irish up, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I spent a little time looking through photos of Ireland from our visit in 2015, and remembering that along with the picturesque stone walls, castles, and crags, Ireland combines resistance, revolution and humor. And those are traditions I honor today, tomorrow, and always. Continue reading

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Advent Riffs, Fourth Sunday: Signs of Our Times

advent candles

Photo by Alex Harden, licensed under Creative Commons.

On Snelling Avenue, reindeer antlers grow from the side windows of a small red car. They seem part of the general merriment of the season, the feeling of Christmas that Bing Crosby sang about:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. [Silver Bells]

In today’s reading from Isaiah, we are told:

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! (Isaiah 7:11)

From reindeer cars to silver bells, we have plenty of signs. Continue reading

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Advent Riffs, Third Sunday: Keeping Faith

Advent candles, Third Sunday

Advent candles, Third Sunday, photo by Melly95, used under Creative Commons license

“The LORD God keeps faith forever,” promises the psalmist. In the face of every day’s news, what does that promise mean today? Continue reading

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