Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Russell screamed a lot for a four year old. 
Five older brothers and sisters, 
Russell found high-pitched and extended screaming 
the best and most effective repellant to their control.

When Wooden Woman’s Dog was Cute Puppy, 
Cute Puppy would not go on a walk. Walks were a drag. 
Sitting down effectively 
quashed Wooden Woman’s attempt to control her. 
Cajoling that escalates to wild gesturing and loud commands 
only made Cute Puppy cower more. 
Fine. No walk for you tonight.

Little Boy Who Screams 
eventually ventured across his family’s acre 
and traversed the road to Wooden Woman’s house 
where children close to his age spent the summer 
digging in The Big Hole and jumping off the shed, 
grocery bag wings ballooning off their backs.  
Skinny little towhead quietly stayed as long a possible 
each evening that summer. 

Russell was not abused. 
Wooden Woman wants you to know that. 
He liked to play.

In the fall he arrived with the kids after school.

And he would go home when asked…

…except one midwinter evening. 
Russell hung on the counter and watched his mates 
empty the dishwasher and set the table, 
he shadowed them 
while they gathered backpacks and homework. 

Russell watched from the floor by the wood-stove 
while Wooden Woman greeted Engineer.

Didn’t he think he should be heading home to dinner
he was urged for the forth or fifth time. 
Russell sat down in the hall 
the way Cute Puppy did on a walk and hung his head, 
nudged his coat and drippy boots with a toe.

Engineer came over to help, wriggled wet sox into drippy boots and fished thin arms into a damp coat. At the final zip of the coat Russell grabbed Engineer around the neck and whispered in his ear.

Engineer called to Wooden Woman 
as he elbowed back into the sleeve of his coat 
and gave it a final shrug 
called out that he’d be right back. 
Russell and Engineer left together.

Shortly, Engineer slipped back in the house.

I drove Russell home, he said. Wooden Woman almost laughed—they were the closest neighbors, a long block away at most.

Russell asked me to, Engineer continued,

when we pulled in his driveway Russell grabbed my hand,

kissed it,

and jumped out of the car.

Wooden Woman wants to rest with that Kiss for a minute,

go outside in the perilous darkness
with that Kiss.

So many nights now she rests in the dark with the Screamer
and Cute Puppy.

Wooden Woman thinks courage is
A Little Whisper
that does not forget the hand that helped you
nor fails to Kiss it.


There is a mystery in hope 
because we do not know how God will intervene. 
―Ravi Zacharias

Courage is not simply one of the virtues 
but the form of every virtue at the testing point, 
which means at the point of highest reality. 
–CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


PS My Dog knew all about kissing the hand…



Saturday, February 15, 2014


Why is ice slippery?

Nope, it’s not steely pressure of blade or boot
melting a little film of water to glide on.

Or the frictional screech of brakes
warming black ice beneath your smoking tires.

Most Kenyans that Wooden Woman knows
have never seen snow
or even sloshed an ice cube across their tongue.

Yet there in an African hospital
was the secret of slipping on ice.

Hospitals are not all the same.

Wooden Woman remembers this one with…

…oh my...

Two to a bed.
No sheets.
Bring your own water and food.

The almost makeshift atmosphere
spoke of turning away nothing
and no one.

Go in with one disease
you may come out with three more.

The kind of place one goes to die.

Yet Compassion lived there, 
firmly wedded
to the inability to do more.

Empathy stood as best it could, back turned
to all that that could not possibly
be offered.

Wooden Woman wonders if it was
the implied blessing
of white skin and an American passport,

or her Christianity 

that made the infirm

say yes

when she stopped by each bed
and asked if she might pray for them.

Without exception,
even the Muslim man
wanted this medicine.

Each patient closed their eyes,
a slight furrow in the brow,
as if bracing for a miracle.

Standing on the icy path of illness, they
looked to Wooden Woman as if to say,

You have such bright skates. 
Put some on me,
please help me to the edge, 
to the firm ground.

Wooden Woman recalls deep brown eyes,
intently searching hers after each prayer,
and the despair of, no skates,
I didn’t bring skates.  

I am not that One.

Unanswered prayer. What does it mean?

So slippery.

You just have to pause with that. 

Sometimes for a long long time. 

Slipperiness has nothing to do
with changing the essential nature of ice.

No matter what the temperature,

there is a thin film of quasi-liquid water on ice,
which acts as a lubricant.

No one knows why it is there.

But it is.

A miracle—there on surface of the ice.

Perhaps prayer is just a little bump
to begin momentum forward.

And that is enough. It’s all that is offered.


“Meanwhile, little people like you and me,
 if our prayers are sometimes granted,
beyond all hope and probability,
had better not draw hasty conclusions
to our own advantage. If we were stronger,
we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver,
we might be sent, with far less help,
to defend far more desperate posts
in the great battle."
      CS Lewis

Wooden Woman

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Two Infinities:

1. Everything outside her…
2. Everything inside her…

Wooden Woman finds herself exactly in the middle
of everything.

Consider the weather.

From a stirring of air lifting a hair 
to supernovas,
a hundred million times brighter than the sun,
exuding brilliant showers of radiation,

Wooden Woman, even dozing in Big Chair,
inescapably partakes of the vast outside…

…while inside herself the weather is tropical,
98.6 degrees daily,
with occasional shifts into the fever range.
Inside weather remains remarkably steady…

… despite never ending crosswinds of joy and angst,
billowed ecstasy and fogged in depressions.

Tears of all sorts seep across the line
from inside to the outside,
whereby they safely evaporate up into heaven,
leaving Wooden Woman
still here
in the middle
of it all.

Neither ridicule,
nor atomic bomb,
removes her from her own center stage.

This is not overweening self-importance,
merely a statement of perspective.

Late one sticky summer afternoon
a dust devil kicked up dirt
in the field behind the house.
Bruisy thunderheads pressed down
and soon enough a door slammed.

In minutes the soft dust of the garden
howled into a piercing sand blast.
Reeling in windows,
scuttling cushions off the lawn furniture,
Wooden Woman witnessed the landscape’s
mass exodus eastward.

Lightning and thunder simultaneously exploded.
the trash can lid galloped through the yard and deftly leaped the fence.

They flinched under another flash and boom.
Engineer dashed out the door, protecting himself
with an elbow over head
and hand partially shielding his face,
the sand blast now mixed with spitting with rain.

Engineer had told Wooden Woman
how cows get electrocuted during lightening storms.
Negative seeking positive.
One is much better off with just one leg on the ground.


But Engineer had disappeared
into the dust down the fallow row of the farm next door.
echoed down the valley. Again.
And again.

Worse than thunderstorms or trash can lids
(leaves and debris still hitting the house)
 is realizing the exponentially greater loss now at hand.
A storm of guilt throbbed inside.  
Wooden Woman wandered back to the window
as if leaning her forehead into the glass
could dispel remorse. A minute, ten…

…BAM the front door blasts open.

ENGINEER charges in
holding high an extra large round pizza cardboard
(same color as the trash lid)
that he’d chased a quarter mile toward town.


Outside. Inside.
Caught in the middle every time.
We can do no less.

Wooden Woman calls this the paradox of body and soul.

Her best advice: Make the stories good.

Do good.
Be good.
Laugh at yourself.


“Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point,
not to a small thing or a large one, 
but to a thing with no size at all,
so that to it
 all the cosmic things 
are what they really are
—of immeasurable stature.” 
GK Chesterton


* *  PS no wonder everyone wants to write a book.
They find themselves right in the middle of every story.