Tag Archives: love

Sweet Honey From Old Failures: A New Year’s Post

Events that seem to be surrounded by expectation confuse me, and trigger that fear that I am a few steps off from everyone else.  Not a truthful fear, but a common fear nonetheless, and one the world does little to soothe for any of us.  New Year’s Eve is one of those events for me, for a variety of reasons.  One is that the only thing that has ever made me willing to stay awake until midnight was childbirth. 

Also, social events that last many, many hours, like New Year’s Eve gatherings, are just too much human contact for me.  If you are invited to something that starts at 7:00, you’ve got at least 5 and a 1/2 hours to get through, and I can count on 3 fingers the number of people who I could bear to spend that much uninterrupted time with.  But I think it’s the resolution issue that confuses me the most: to resolve or not to resolve, that is the question.

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Filed under love, poetry, spirituality

All Flowers Keep the Light

Merry Christmas everyone!  For folks who have been following this Advent blog, you know that today is the day we have been waiting for.  Waiting quite literally, as Advent is a season of waiting for the miracle that is on its way to us (remember that it is from the Latin adventus, and means “coming”)? 

For those of you who landed here in search of our annual family holiday letter, welcome!  You’re in the right place, and I’m so glad you’re here!  Please read along (and maybe even visit some of the previous posts)!  Everyone will also find some Srajek family 2010 moments over at: www.srajek.wordpress.com.

The title of today’s post comes from a quotation by Theodore Roethke: “Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”  Advent is called “the season of light,” and writing this blog [one post and one poem (not by me!) for each day of Advent] has, from the beginning, been a way to draw attention away from the typical experience of winter darkness, and towards the light, whatever form that light may take. 

copyright Mary Schwalm

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Filed under advent, love, spirituality

Love & Gifts: a Short Monday Post

Happy Monday, my lovely, lovely friends!  Can you believe it is December 20th already?  (I actually can’t stand when people say things like that, as if the passage of time is an entirely new and unexpected occurence to us when we are of course living in it at every moment).  

Today is just a short little post to remind you that when I started this Advent blog, I promised that we would have gifts at the end!  They are three of my most favorite books in the world: (1) The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (the anniversary edition of the original); (2) Ten Poems to Change Your Life by the amazing poet and writer Roger Housden; and (3) The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality For Real Life, a new favorite by James Martin. 

Since we are nearing the end of Advent, now is the time to email me at lesliesrajek@gmail.com, and Gabe will choose three names at random (he can’t read yet, but I think if you said your name was Batman, he might be able to recognize that on the screen…), and you may be the one to receive one of these treasures.  I can’t wait! (Please don’t go all midwestern on me and be too reticent to email; I really, really want to share these books with you)!

Today’s poem is also short, but so very, very kind.  It is by Czeslaw Milosz.  To see one’s self from a distance, as the poet recommends, lets us see that yes, we are “only one thing among many,” and the comfort in that is knowing that we are part of everything, and also neither more nor less important than any other living thing.  The last line is also very comforting: serve, but don’t worry about needing to understand.


Love means to look at yourself
the way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills–
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Czeslaw Milosz


Filed under advent, love

The Willingness to Say “I Love You” First

One of the questions that someone recently wrote in was, “Is being in love anything but guaranteed insanity?”  I know this was a serious question, with real perplexity behind it.  But it made me laugh.  Of course it did.  Chris Rock says that if you’ve never wanted to kill someone, you’ve never been in love.  And maybe I’m starting out this post with a somewhat comical tone, because questions about love between long-term partners, and the question, “Are you willing to be the one who says ‘I love you’ first?” scares me almost to death.  Because I’m pretty sure that I’m not.  Maybe sometimes, but not as a rule.

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Filed under advent, courage, love

The Beauty of Transience: Our Collective Wisdom

Surrounded Islands

The artists Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude created some of the most extraordinary pieces of art in the world.  Running Fence, Surrounded Islands, Wrapped Trees, and The Gates are some of the best known.  They are enormous environmental projects that take up to 25 years to plan and create.  None of their exhibits are permanent. 

Running Fence

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Filed under courage, happiness, love

“My Heart is Like a Singing Bird”

[Note: Not an in-depth post, but a happy, joyful one in gratitude for all the love I received on my birthday, and for being alive in this good, sweet life.  Never perfect, always blessed.]  

A Birthday 

My heart is like a singing bird 
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot; 
My heart is like an apple-tree 
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit; 
My heart is like a rainbow shell 
That paddles in a halcyon sea; 
My heart is gladder than all these, 
Because my love is come to me.  

Raise me a daïs of silk and down; 
Hang it with vair and purple dyes; 
Carve it in doves and pomegranates, 
And peacocks with a hundred eyes; 
Work it in gold and silver grapes, 
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; 
Because the birthday of my life 
Is come, my love is come to me. 

Christina Rossetti 


A year or so ago, I decided to teach myself to memorize poems so that I could recite instead of read them when I do workshops, because it’s much more powerful, and it makes the poems more accessible.  The first time I did this I was scared to death, because it was awkward and slightly weird, and I was afraid that I was going to look ridiculous.  I may have indeed looked ridiculous, but it was also very exciting, like speaking a new language, which in fact it was.  Now I love it.  

I recited Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Angus,” when a colleague asked me to come talk to his class about writing, and it was a lot of fun because that poem rhymes.  Today’s poem by Christina Rossetti is one of the first ones that I learned, also because it rhymes, which makes it much easier to remember.  And it is exquisitely sweet and joyful.  I feel happy every single time I say this poem, which I once did while walking with a friend on hard, crunchy winter ground (now that I’ve started I can’t stop myself). 

But today it is spring, full-on and bounteous.  I promise that if you say this poem out loud a few times, your heart will lift up.  I promise.  [note: “vair” is a kind of fur that was used to trim cloaks; don’t feel weird saying it.]  Give it a try!  And let me know how it makes you feel!  It doesn’t have to be your birthday in order to celebrate your one sweet and precious life.  As always, my heart is glad to know that you are here! 

Here’s some of what my birthday looked like: 

a beautiful orchid that I hope I don't kill

balloons--immediately co-opted by Gabe

it might be my birthday but the balloons belong to the little dude

lemon raspberry cake on my new cakestand!


Filed under gratitude, happiness, love, poetry

“Afraid Yet Filled With Joy:” The Blessings of Easter

Two amazing things happened to me on Good Friday as I was driving to meet some friends after a crazy 36 hours.  The first was that I passed Jesus on the street.  Actually, he was on the sidewalk.   He was walking east down Windsor Avenue, wearing a white robe, the crown of thorns, and carrying a cross.  A small robed woman wearing head coverings was walking next to him.  On the other side of the street going west was a jogger with no shirt on, and coming up towards Jesus on his side was a guy on a bike.  I felt concerned about the biker because there’s not a lot of room on the sidewalk, and it seemed like it could be awkward trying to bike past Jesus with the small woman and the cross.  Also, if it had been me, there was no way I could just RIDE PAST Jesus, especially not with the cross and the crown of thorns.  Maybe on a normal day, i.e not Good Friday.  But no, not even then.  It would feel too disrespectful. [note: my dad said he didn’t understand this part of the post.  It ACTUALLY happened!  Exactly this way. It’s a TRUE story!]

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Filed under gratitude, love, poetry, spirituality

And Now For Something Completely the Same

There are three strands of one story trying to weave themselves together in my head today, and if I were a better or less tired writer, I would not have to tell you that upfront—it would be clear from the writing itself.  And since I’ve started off with that unsubtle disclaimer, I’ll follow it by just telling you what the three strands are, even though that feels like handing you the rope and telling you to go braid it yourself, instead of weaving a fine and smooth story, which is what responsible writers are supposed to do.

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Filed under courage, love, poetry, spirituality

Arguing: Fun for the Whole Family!

When our friends Markus and Almut had their third child, we asked Markus how it was to go from being a family of four to a family a five.  He’s a Classics Scholar—insightful, deliberate, a little quirky with a pleasing neurotic edge.  “Well, it’s less…monolithic,” he said, making the shape of a column with his hands.  “Four is just so tight.  With five, there’s more movement.  It’s more dynamic.”  Then a bewildered look crossed his face.  “Sometimes,” he said slowly, “I try to keep them all in my head at the same time and I can’t.”

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Filed under family life, love, poetry

The Antidote to Exhaustion

“‘Tell me about exhaustion,’ I said.

 He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. 

‘You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?’

 ‘What is it, then?’

‘The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness‘”
(David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, 132).

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Filed under gratitude, love, poetry