Three choices

I can make something simple very complicated in seconds, like plans for last weekend.

Yesterday David and I celebrated 29 years of marriage. We hadn’t been to Asheville KHC and DOC June 23, 1984together in two years, and we thought it would be fun to go back and do a brewery tour.

And then I tried to make it complicated:

“What if we invite our Guilford College friends in the area to go on the tour? Maybe Karrie will come up from Greensboro! I already spent New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day with her this year, so why not our anniversary too?”

“What if I invite my friends from the retreat I did near Asheville in the fall?”

“What if we invite Leslie (David’s work wife) and Marni to meet us in Asheville for the weekend?”

Wow! We could see a lot of fun people and you could meet some of the friends I made in the fall at the retreat. This could be great!

Our history of spending our anniversary with other people isn’t without precedence. Twenty-nine years ago we met David’s mother and grandmother for dinner in Charleston while we were on our honeymoon and they were doing a historical architecture tour. And last year we spent the day with Ogeechee Riverkeeper members before heading to Savannah.

David was thinking this trip would be a vacation without a long itinerary (he judges a good vacation by the number of naps he gets to take). He offered a compromise: we spend the weekend with Leslie and Marni OR we do the beer tour/meet friends afterwards. But not both.

That was tough. After all, in 2013 I had already spent New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day with girlfriends (including cooking dinner for David’s work wife Leslie). I was batting 1000.

But I came full circle to the choice I made 29 years ago. I wanted to spent a four-day weekend with David, and did not tag on our friends.

We didn’t run into anyone we knew while we were away. If we had maybe we would have had a beer and a short visit. Instead, we only had each other’s company while we are away.

And after 29 years, that was all the company I wanted.

A tribe of 40,000 strong

Washington County, where I live in Middle Georgia, is small, about 20,000 people living in a county with white clay, rolling hills, and woods filled with deer.

Yesterday I watched the area at the Washington Monument fill with twice as many people as those who call Washington County home to make their concerns about our natural resources, climate, and health, clear to the country.

Photo via
Photo via

I met fellow tribe members from Burlington College in Vermont on the DC Metro Sunday morning. The young man who chatted with me was wearing a tie, I suspect because the day was planned to be of historic proportions.

A father with his young son, perhaps four years old, wearing a Forward on Climate button, navigated Union Station. Travelers from New York and New Mexico jockeyed for hot coffee before setting out in the bitter cold for the Washington Monument.

On our way to the monument we walked past a small group of people wearing bright yellow t-shirts. imageThey weren’t smiling, and they seemed to want to debate and record people rather than participate. Clearly they weren’t there because of passion, and their sad, plain flyer with pro fossil-fuel data identified them as the hired hands the industry pays and outfits for events which threaten their profits.

We streamed in with signs and banners. We came by car, train, bus, and plane. Great-grandchildren perched on the laps of  their elders in wheelchairs. Children carried cheerful signs with bright suns and flowers, lettered in the distinct print young children use.


We bounced on our toes to warm our feet. Couples held gloved hands. Before long we were a sea of fleece and down jackets.

And we marched, this river of people from across North America. Women from First Nations walked in front while men towards the back kept a steady beat on a large handmade drum. So many people, so many colors, shapes, ages, and reasons for being there to say, together, that the old ways must change.

We walked away from the yellow t-shirted few, greeting the people around us while we chanted and smiled. I walked with two women from Canada, then students from Earlham College and Appalachian State. New Yorkers opposed to fracking wore their signs over their chests and backs. Three men carried wooden numbers on tall stakes spelling out 350.

We cheered and chanted in front of the White House, calling for the President to make good on his words about Climate Change and how we will fuel our country. He had escaped the bitter cold for a weekend in Florida, but we were sure our voices were heard.

Jack Magoon, 14, and his brother Will, 12, wait for the train home to Virginia with their grandparents.
Jack Magoon, 14, and his brother Will, 12, wait for the train home to Virginia with their grandparents.

Our message was clear and our voices were strong. We made history yesterday standing shoulder to shoulder for the future we want for the youngest who were among us.


Adventure gear

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community, and spontaneity
January 11, 2013

photo (59)

This bag has been  a faithful companion on trips
I have made to the Southwest, DC, Miami, Maine, and Alaska.

It went on a mission trip to Peru with my friend Judy.

Last summer it went to Eastern Europe on a mission trip
with my friend Shelia and her son.

Yesterday I sent it to Julia, a brilliant and beautiful Guilford student
who will spend the spring semester studying in Italy.

Maybe The Friday Photo will have a photo from the hillsides of northern Italy in the coming weeks.

When courage replaces fear

This New Year’s Eve, for the first time in 30 years, I will not be celebrating with my husband. Instead, I will be celebrating with steadfast girlfriends, some who stepped from fear to courage years ago, and some more recently.

The unexpected is part of our lives. It comes in the form of small things like finding there aren’t any eggs in the frig when you have started mixing the pancakes (from scratch). Or that the job isn’t the right fit. Or the marriage. Or that marriage isn’t an option because you love someone who also has two X chromosomes just like you.

Later today I will join three brilliant women (we will miss you Marie!) for a walk on the beach, dinner, lots of laughter, maybe some tears, and a toast to a New Year where all of us will have crossed from some fear of our own to courage.

I am so lucky.

Faculty follows student leaders, reaches consensus driven by core values

A proposed amendment to the North Carolina (my home state)  state constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman will be decided on May 8. This amendment has made strange bedfellows of traditionally liberal and conservative camps who oppose Amendment One.

While I am not surprised that members of the Guilford College faculty are opposed to this amendment, they have taken an unprecedented action. Founded in 1837 as New Garden Board School, the faculty at Guilford has never taken action as a body in response to an issue. Guided by the Quaker (Society of Friends) values of equality and inclusiveness, decision making is reached by consensus. Reaching consensus requires thoughtfulness and respect for all concerns and ideas. The faculty at Guilford is diverse, and includes members of many faiths, as well as those who do choose a faith.

Archdale Hall, faculty offices, April 2012

Lisa McLeod, an associate professor of philosophy, said this about reaching consensus on a resolution, “The Guilford faculty coming to consensus to oppose this amendment should really say something to North Carolinians. We don’t always speak with one voice, and we almost never speak as a body about ‘political’ issues. We were able to make this statement because the amendment represents a backward step in the protection of human rights. The idea that such a regressive move could be enshrined in the state constitution is just intolerable.” (emphasis added)

The Community Senate, the body which represents traditional students on campus, also reached consensus in opposition to the amendment in February.

I hope Amendment One is soundly defeated next week. We are long overdue as a country on so many issues which impact our future. It is high time that we stop worrying about consenting adults who want to get married. Period.


Got a poem on ya?

As part of National Poetry Month, today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I like poetry but am guilty of not paying a lot of attention to it. I have had several “driveway moments” waiting for the poem on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” and yet it never occurs to me to look for poetry as some of my friends do.

I asked my old friend Dennis Kirschbaum, who staffed The Metaphor Hotline at Guilford, for a poem about coffee (which Dennis loves at least as much as a good metaphor). He didn’t send me one of his own poems, but what he did send is very good, almost as good as his own work.

In Praise of Joe
by Marcy Piercy

I love you hot
I love you iced and in a pinch
I will even consume you tepid.

Dark brown as wet bark of an apple tree,
dark as the waters flowing out of a spooky swamp
rich with tannin and smelling of thick life—

but you have your own scent that even
rising as steam kicks my brain into gear.
I drink you rancid out of vending machines,

I drink you at coffee bars for $6 a hit,
I drink you dribbling down my chin from a thermos
in cars, in stadiums, on the moonwashed beach.

Mornings you go off in my mouth like an electric
siren, radiating to my fingertips and toes.
You rattle my spine and buzz in my brain.

Whether latte, cappuccino, black or Greek
you keep me cooking, you keep me on line.
Without you, I would never get out of bed

but spend my life pressing the snooze
button. I would creep through wan days
in the form of a large shiny slug.

You waken in me the gift of speech when I
am dumb as a rock buried in damp earth.
It is you who make me human every dawn.
All my books are written with your ink.

Flying my flag

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by spontaneity, art, and community.
March 23, 2012

I once introduced myself at a meeting of about 40 health policy/program directors and added, “Guilford College, Class of 83” for fun. A few  people chuckled (there was a concentration of University of Georgia people there). They stopped when another woman said, “I need to talk to you. My daughter just applied to Guilford.”

The more I wave my Guilford flag the smaller the world becomes by way of Guilford connections. Amanda, on the left in the photo, is a Guilford alum (Class of 97) who works as a health policy professional at the Georgia Health Policy Center. Had we not waved our Guilford flags, we would have been at the same meetings and never known both of us love the Fighting Quakers.

Jennette, on the right in the photo, is a friend made through the environmental work I began four years ago. Jennette once sent me an email, copied a Guilford alum, and said we at least needed an electronic introduction.

Then this photo was posted on Facebook and I learned that my health policy/program friend is connected to my environmental advocacy friend.

The world gets smaller every day. It shrinks with technological links all the time (like this photo posted on Facebook), but electronic links are no substitute for the human connection of playing Bocce ball on a hot summer day at a friend’s wedding.

Jennette is about to reach critical mass on Guilford friends. One of us needs to at least get her a t-shirt.

The Ken Burns Effect

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by spontaneity, art, and community.
March 16, 2012


K=Aaron DeMoss, E=Matt Haselton, N=nte Miller, !=Erin Burns, Ken Burns (coat and tie)

 Take eight brand new college freshmen, add a shared interest in documentaries, steep in a setting that encourages discussion, critical thinking, and creativity, add a little body paint, and you get The Ken Burns Effect.

What began as a common point of dining hall and sidewalk conversations among eight young students at Guilford College has grown into a documentary in the making based on Ken Burns, called, appropriately, The Ken Burns Effect.

The eight freshman are now alums making their way back to Guilford on Tuesday, March 27, to hear Burns speak again. And, like many free-lance film directors and producers, they need to fund their travel and production, hence a really creative fundraising campaign.

I smiled the minute I started watching the video, and laughed out loud too (you’ll have to watch the video, but I suspect others will laugh when I did).

You may know some young adults who are just as creative as these eight Guilford alums, and I hope you encourage them as they tell their stories.

I can’t wait to see The Ken Burns Effect on the big screen because I suspect, in addition to being an homage to Ken Burns, it will tell the story of the deep and lasting impact that Guilford College has on everyone who is lucky enough to be there. Maybe there will be a sequel, working title The Guilford College Effect?