Blog and Be Blogged

Karyn at Saturated in Seattle has taken time out of her exciting life of writing articles for the Huffington Post and bee-keeping to honor her favorite blogs.  Thanks for thinking of me:)  Let me just say that reading Karyn’s posts and her testimony make me a better person.  The way she lets God penetrate her wounds and heal her from the inside out, and how she bares her scars for the whole world to see is power.  Her words linger with me and don’t slide like raindrops off a rooftop, but saturate my cells and transform my being.  I am very grateful that we can encourage each other in our writing and in sisterhood in Christ.

So in accepting this accolade, I am to answer her below questions, list 11 facts about myself, and recognize some of my favorite bloggers.  I know I’ve come across blogs that wish to remain “award-free” and I don’t want to push this, so if any of you bloggers mentioned below want to participate, please let me know.

1. How did you come up with your blog name?

The most prominent theme in my writing/life for the past eight years has been my conversion and learning how real and hard the Gospel is.  Actually, only by writing about my conversion experience do I cognitively figure it out, which of course is not necessary to be a follower of Christ but it’s a fascinating subject for my brain to contemplate and derive answers.  Then, ‘Isosceles.’  I love the sound of that word, and especially coupled with ‘Gospel.’  Both the consonance and assonance, along with the imagery of the Trinity, is striking to the poet’s senses.

     2. Favorite thing about blogging?

By far the best thing about blogging is the genuine connections made with other writers all over the world.  I love how we get to know each other by our hearts alone.  It’s like the communion of saints I experience while reading books.  This is one thing the internet has an advantage over real-life interactions where judgments based on shallow things seem inevitable.  The last writer’s group I joined encouraged me to start blogging because of my writing, but their stories of creating community by blogging, sometimes actually traveling and meeting their blogging friends, was the real reason I convinced my husband we finally needed internet connection so I could find my own kindred spirits out there.

     3. Hardest thing about blogging?

Blogging on WordPress tests my patience, and that is a good, but hard thing.  For two whole months I put up posts and had very few readers and no followers.  So sometimes I thought, “What am I doing wasting my time like this?”  It was difficult to navigate through the administration and set-up process.  It seemed like it took me forever to figure out what a ‘widget’ was.  I had trouble finding blogs that I connected with, too.  But I learned as I went, like life.  When I found a good blog, I would also check out its readers’ blogs.  When I found a thoughtful comment, I would go to that person’s site.  It’s actually refreshing to go the ‘slow-but-steady’ pace when everyone in the world would seemingly sell his soul to have it all RIGHT NOW!

     4. Go to music?

I have a blog post on my top 17 songs of all time, and if you see it, you’ll know that this question is impossible to answer, given that it took me months to compile that highly diverse list.  I’m a dancer and a musician and groove to 50’s jazz, 60’s soul, 70’s progressive rock, 80’s Roxette, 90’s grunge, 00’s STS9-type stuff, and there’s some good contemporary world music too.  I can’t get into Christian rock.  My favorite classical composers are Dvořák, Chopin, and Shostakovich.  I never listen to music while writing.

5. Who do you admire most? Why?

I admire those who live the truth of the beatitudes, even if they’ve never heard the ‘sermon on the mount’ but know it because it is the truth in all of our hearts.  This, I believe, is what Jesus meant when he said that no one comes to heaven but through me.  Living the teachings is the hardest and often most courageous thing we can do here on earth, no matter the religion/culture among which we live.

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

New Zealand to visit my brother.  I also hope to hike the Colorado portion of the Sangre de Cristos, a colorful mountain range in southern Colorado with my family, once the babies are older.

  1. Would you rather live in the city or country?

I’ve lived in Chongqing, a city of over 15 million people and currently live on the outskirts of a mountain town with a population of about 600.  There are advantages and drawbacks to both and every size in between.  I just want to be moved by God and know that I’m right where I need to be in the present.

8. Favorite meal?

Shui Zhu Yu, a Chinese fish and celery dish, with spicy black bean sauce and Sichuan numbing peppercorns.  I usually make it with cod and serve it over jasmine rice.  Also, whenever we get to the city we treat ourselves to sushi (sake-salmon and saba-mackerel are my favorite nigiri) with a good beer.

     9. One piece of advice you would give to a new blogger?

Just as Karyn said and I tell new bloggers if it comes up, don’t write for anyone but for yourself.  It may seem a paradox, but when you are honest in your writing (writing for yourself) you will offer much more substance to readers than if you try and write something you think potential readers want to hear.  “Inspirational” blogs tend to be anything but that because most of them are tepid extractions of wisdom gained the hard way elsewhere.  There’s no rawness.  There’s no vulnerability.  These qualities are essential to a good blog.

10. If you had a free afternoon, how would you spend it?

Face-painted and dancing to a drum circle in the woods, near a river, in uninhibited praise.

11. What is the last book you read? Would you recommend it?

I’m re-reading all of Annie Proulx’s works so I can make a list of my favorite similes and metaphors.  She’s fantastic.  My favorite author.  Although many say she’s too dark for their taste, I couldn’t recommend her enough, if you can stand a bit of grit.  Although I still have two books to go, and she’s coming out with a new novel in June, be on the lookout for the list of analogies in a future blog post, months in the making.  Here’s a taste: “Year after year rich people moved into the mountains and built glass houses at high elevations; at sunset when the valleys were smothered in leathery shadow, the heliodor mansions flashed like an armada signaling for the attack.” Heart Songs and Other Stories, ‘Negatives’ p. 191

Now for 11 randoms about me:

  1. The most awesome little corner of this planet I’ve ever seen was over 200 miles of the Grand Canyon from the Colorado River on an 18-day raft trip in 2009. I also got my dreadlocks on that trip as I forgot to bring a hair brush, and have had them since.  A good souvenir!
  2. I’m embarrassingly bad at many day-to-day things (like small talk and cleaning) but I kick ass at baseball, ‘Evil’ Sudokus, and Crypto-quotes (codes in which one letter equals another and you have to solve the quote.)
  3. My husband and I met as co-instructors of teenagers in the wilderness of the El Capitan, Sierra Blanca, and Chama regions of New Mexico.
  4. I love conducting choirs and orchestras and I’m the cantor at the little catholic church.
  5. My dad used to bring me and my siblings, when we were too young to comprehend, to pro-life rallies at the state capitol. What I remember of those rallies was the anger and shouting from one side of Lincoln Ave. to the other, pro-choice/pro-life.  The division.  My impression was that the two sides wanted to strangle one another.
  6. I lived in China for four years.
  7. I never thought of myself as an artist but one night while I was living in a Tibetan farmhouse, the Dalai Lama told me to draw him in a dream. So when I awoke I tried and was amazed that, with just a good bit of focus, I could draw!  I’ve been drawing portraits ever since.
  8. I stopped eating meat (except fish) when I was 10.
  9. But if I’m hiking the jungles on the border of Myanmar and a poor tea farmer invites me into his home and his wife slaughters their only chicken and serves me not only the flesh but also the blood in a bowl with scallions and ginger, then I’m going to eat and drink.
  10. I used to DJ a classical music radio show.
  11. Faith is truly the most incredible thing that can be conceived in this realm of earth and gravity. For when one has faith in the one who created everything, life turns from this bleak domain of getting led by Satan’s chains of popular opinion, political and philosophical ideals, mortgages and investments, the current science, and societal norms; to a whole new life that is so dynamic because these things are not dragging us around anymore. This freed life shows us a glimpse of the heavenly realm. So it is my only fervent prayer: that every soul chooses faith.

It is a flash from the state of non-belief to faith, There is no more than a syllable between doubt and certainty: Prize this precious moment dearly, It is our life’s only fruit.

-From the Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam

Here are some blogs I wish to recognize:

Perennial I think Bethany’s blog was the first one I followed.  A believer in God, she is introspective and opens up about her relationship with her parents, her marriage, motherhood, and her growth in spirituality.  I know she’s busy with her baby boy, but I only wish she would post more often; wise beyond her years, I savor her words.  Here are some of my favorite posts of hers: https://bgoodsy.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/soundtrack-of-my-childhood/ and https://bgoodsy.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/my-father-lies-over-the-ocean-so-bring-back-the-daughter-in-me/

Turhon McdowellSome future collaboration may be in order with this beat-inspired writer of poetry prose, whose ‘About’ section begins, “I am the twentieth century. I am the ragtime and the tango; sans-serif, clean geometry…”  His latest poem was absolutely stunning: https://turhonmcdowell.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/aprils-angel/

Snapshot Couplets Mario’s catholic/spiritual poetry convicts the reader in a beautiful way.  His latest poem asks you whether you would save all of the words ever written, including the holy words of scripture, or save a human life from burning in a fire.  His poems are often rhymed, with clear rhythm, and are accompanied by his own photography.  I once re-blogged his poem, The Cantor: https://snapshotcouplets.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-cantor/

Gathering Stones Strung On Threads Nearly every morning I am blessed to start my day with Peter’s beautifully crafted, poignant poems, which are followed by relevant words from masters of language and life. https://notehelfer.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/dancing-in-the-dark-2/

A Noun Walks Into A Bar Brilliant poetry and prose set in Rhode Island.  Here’s a favorite to start you off: https://anounwalksintoabar.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/yule-log/

Towns, Junctions, and Interchanges Formerly ‘A Gift of Opals’, Maia’s a true poet and a fellow lover of baseball.  You have no idea how happy that makes me!  I like how she also gives you a short origin story of each of her poems.  Here’s one: https://tjipoems.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/the-tulip-merchant/

Pursue Peace Bold in opinion, a fierce lover of God, and her short fiction will move you to tears.  I know Karyn recognized her too, but just wanted to give a second shout-out.  Here’s a short story: https://pursuepeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/living-outside-the-cocoon/

Patchwork Gene writes about everything from reflections on the significant spaces in the Bible, to humorous getaways with his wife, to grieving the death of his son.  On his eclectic blog he shares his gorgeous artwork as well.  https://genekiepura.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/my-addiction/

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Chameleon

chameleon

I caught a reptile like a cold

And released the chimerical chameleon

Who always finds my scent,

The aromas of every note ever played

Still lingering in a mind frayed

Up a jazz line and it lays bent

On a sleepy city that stirs

What in a hollow world?

 

© 2011, Amaya Engleking

Torn

lampshades

Me and my sister

I was liked more when I was all pride.  And sometimes, like now, I even find myself missing those carefree, sans sacrifice days.  There was always someone there to be drunk on life with, living for the moment and our senses only, shooting the shit, disregarding the state of the rest of the world for a few belligerent laughs and the sense that we were loved, and not alone. Read More

Swing

pendulum-david-raderstorf

It wasn’t the cult that made me do these things.  I am as unaffiliated as the man stranded on the island who built a swing.  We all thought he was out of his wits –or maybe that’s all that was left—but here we are all on the same universal pendulum and no one ever says a damn thing about how fuckin crazy we all are not to jump off.  Minds and cells all jostled from a lifetime of the up-and-down, back-and-forth, yet we still convince ourselves we know what is best.  Go down swinging, that’s how we like it.  What do I care about a guy who got it right in his dizzied brain?  How was I supposed to know that jumping is the only way off this nightmarish ride?

Read More

My Name

dad and ada

Singing with Dad

Father,

Whether my desire for your blessing derived from goodness or from sin,

It was never to be compromised.

In my passion for the human heart did I sacrifice my own?

In the spaces of all the years of lonely writing I might solve the unrelenting mystery:

Read More

Violent City

violent city

What I must learn about Colombia is that the journey was God-driven.  My speech was taken from me in those intimidating streets except when I was supposed to (and needed to, at this point) speak about my Lord.  I wrote that letter to Catalina, not knowing who on earth she was but a sister in heaven; but God gave me the words as well as the scripture from Deuteronomy chapter thirty, and she turned out to be a Medellín prostitute.  It’s not easy.  Humbling, to be writing to a lost soul who was both selling herself and who was myself: we are all sinners and our sins equal in the eyes of the Most High.  How does God work the perfection?

Read More

Compensating For Salvation Work

tower of bodies

Some raving liberals and conservatives want to make it a law that it is mandatory to birth in hospitals.  The older I get (I don’t know how I’ve missed it before) I see the near-desperation to which people get to exert control over other people.  What in our nature makes us corrode to such a crazed spiritual state?  I’m reminded of the paintings depicting hell, the ones where there were all of these naked bodies stepping on and smashing each other to get to the top; but the scope of the paintings never showed ‘a top.’  Sure on the outside we’re composed and accomplished, and whatever ‘work’ we’re up to is for the benefit of humanity and/or the economy.  But our dirty naked and neglected souls!  We’ve long given up on what actually matters and go bustling about in the affairs of others’ and a myriad of vanities in hopes of, what?  Compensating for salvation work?

Read More

Embracing Blessed Pregnancy

pregnantforest1-2

A flowering mother.  (Source unknown)

I am in bloom.  Full of blood, bubbling, full of life.  Face aglow, I am awed by the blood vessels flowing to the womb, thickened veins and umbilical pulse.  I can feel their swollen contours as they inflect upwards beneath the skin.  Bulbous breasts plump with sweet amber, dripping like blackstrap molasses.  Read More