About

Self-Portrait:  Through a Plexiglas Darkly

Self-Portrait: Through a Plexiglas Darkly

I’m a retired professor of English literature and linguistics and academic dean with a Ph.D. in medieval English language and literature from Northwestern University.  I’m an elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis and active in the work of my church and the Presbytery of Whitewater Valley.  I’ve practiced photography since I won a Kodak Brownie camera in a coloring contest at the age of eight.  I’ve been writing poems since I was six.  Painting in watercolor is a more recent passion.  I see my work as a reflection on the creative glory of God and as an offering of praise for the world’s beauty.  I enjoy altering photographs with computer tools in order to emphasize some spiritual quality of the person or scene or object. For me, art is both a means of contemplation and a form of prayer.

 

The Story of My Life

When I was a kid,
I’d lie on a bed on the sleeping porch,
Looking out through the screen
At sunlight filtering through the leaves
Of the big old maple tree,
Feeling myself drop into the network
Under the surface of the earth,
Connecting me to everyone and everything
Ever created.

But then I grew up
And that connection faded to shadows
And shadows of shadows.

I spent most of my life
Buried in my career.
I studied and taught,
And I developed courses and programs,
Wrote policies,
Made decisions,
Solved problems.

Twenty years married,
And I never saw who my husband was.
Nearly thirty years of career,
And I never saw who I was.
My eyes were on the future,
On myself and my ambitions,
And refused to see
The empty spaces in my heart,
Until my heart turned to shadows
And shadows of shadows
And the shadows turned to ashes.

Burned out, burned up,
Marriage ended –
The salt had lost its savor.
I left my career to help my ailing father,
Watched him die,
Felt the ashes close over my head.

Lost in the shadows of shadows
And the ashes of shadows,
I yearned for meaning,
For that lost connection.

“God,” I said, “if you’re there,
Tell me what to do.
Show me some meaning for my life.”

God said, “Come home to me,”
So I joined a church
To use my skills and experience,
Now that I’d left my career.

Then God said, “Write me some love letters,”
And I heard, “Write some policies and start some ministries.”
So I looked for ways to lead
And serve the church.

God said, “Take me some photographs
To celebrate the glory of my creation.”
And I heard, “Go work in mission
And take some pictures of your projects
For my people in your church.”

And God said, “Take some clay,
And make me some pots
So I can fill them with flowers
And sweet-smelling herbs
And tender growing plants
And sunshine.”
And I heard, “Make me some programs
And run them and lead others,
And make some pots, too, if you want,
And use them as marks of favor.”
And that’s what I did.

Then my heart clogged up with ashes,
And I had two heart attacks,
One right after the other,
And I couldn’t lift the clay
Or push it around to make pots.

Then God said, “Paint me some pictures.
Celebrate the beauty of my Spirit
And the glory of my love.”
So I learned to paint.
And God said, “Take me some photographs
To celebrate the glory of my creation,”
So I went chasing rainbows.
And God said, “Write me some love letters,”
So I wrote this poem.

I lie under the maple tree
And the sun pours down like glory
Through the green leaves.
Have I got it right now?

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