Saturday, December 31, 2011


2012. I like it. Like the look, like the sound. Clean, alliterative.

Now, seriously, 2011 was a stellar year--like all of them...

Not least of all because it was the first full year of my beloved blog. First off, I cannot possibly overemphasize my gratification at the caliber of my readers so could you all, right here, take a huge bow?

I never wanted to do any such thing as invite cheap hits by fomenting useless discussion, vitriolic argument and marketplace Catholicism. Tabloid is tabloid, and I take great pride that if you want to gossip about Fr. Corapi, Fr. Pavone, the inner Vatican, etc. etc. you're not even gonna find that stuff here. I never wanted to hitch my wagon to a cause, or promote my work by purporting to be on the right "side" of anything. I wanted to write about mystery and wonder and paradox and suffering and love and books and ideas and Christ and I have.

And you all have come. You are a major part of my inscape, an impetus, an inspiration, an encouragement, a challenge, and a collective (and sometimes individual) ethical/moral/spiritual guide. I can't tell you how many times during the week I think, Oh I can put that in the blog, or Oh what a beautiful branch, bird, piece of garbage, where's my camera, or Oh I wanted to thank that person for the comment he/she left two days ago...

I learned a lot. I learned that while in one way I am sharing some of my deepest self, I can't "just be myself," because if I were just myself I'd be a whole hell of a lot ruder. Oh the clever, biting retorts I have squelched! Oh, the biting retort I regretted later. Still, I also learned that I can't both write the blog and be everybody's best friend (not that everybody, trust me, wants to be). Nobody would ask their plumber friend, Hey after you work all day would you mind coming over to my house and fixing my toilet, sink and shower while I sit on the side of the tub with a beer and share my soul/tell you my troubles/explain why I think you're wrong and I'm right? Much as I adore sharing souls, stories, troubles, and points-of-view, that's what people are asking when they propose an ONGOING e-mail correspondence. People sometimes say to me: You write just like you talk! Which may or may not be true (or a compliment), but however I write, it is 24/7 mule work. Not that I'd for the world do anything else, but what you see is pretty much all I have.

I feel called to get up on my soapbox every so often and that is a thing, too. I dread and abhor conflict and yet I am somehow compelled to invite it to a certain extent. I have lost many, many nights of sleep worrying about whether I am in error, whether I'm being a jerk, whether I'm being unfair, whether I'm trying to win a useless battle. By the time I've written a post, it turns out, I've pretty much said all I have to say on the subject for the moment. I've discovered when angry or tired I'm liable to completely mis-read the point and tone of a comment and several times have spent an hour or two crafting a reply only to realize afterward I'd engaged in pointless overkill. Restraint of tongue and pen--let the other person have his or her say, within reason, and that is a process of discernment, too.

Again, I feel incredibly fortunate to have either not drawn in the first place, or to have nipped in the bud, the kind of folks who want to argue for the sake of arguing. And I also actually have made a few new friends, which is of course a treasure.

A blog is a strange phenomenon. You get to "know" people you've never met; people whom you have no idea what they look like or how they conduct themselves in "real life." A blog is probably tailor-made for someone like me: a lonely introvert. People get invested in being part of a community--that is part of the beauty of it--and yet we're all like nomads, or pilgrims, and blind-folded pilgrims at that...questing, seeking, stumbling, weighing in, doing the best we can by each other.

Speaking of which, my goal this year is to not only do better by others, but better by myself. I'm gonna turn 60--60, for the love of all that is holy!--this year and it's occurring to me, really, maybe it is time to get a comfortable desk, a decent pair of shoes in which to walk miles every day, an eye exam (I did that once; now I have to do it again?) I lack for nothing but for years I have driven myself really kind of mercilessly, writing, writing, writing, the books, the essays, now the blog, driving cross country and back twice, reading, thinking, going to Mass, corresponding, traveling, speaking, did I say writing?

In one way I live like everyone else and in another...yesterday morning, for instance, someone said to me, "You should try this restaurant down the street," and I thought, Are you kidding? I can't afford to eat out...Or I'll go over to someone's house and they'll have three kinds of tea and I'm like, Oh WOW, look at all the stuff you have! I have a taste for austerity which is not a bad thing and is probably not going to change. But--well, for instance, I once couldn't stand the noise from the neighbors next door while I was trying to work so I got the bright idea to haul in the patio table from the balcony, this round glass patio table with a wrought-iron chair I'd bought at the Salvation Army, and set it up in the corner of the living room and put all my stuff, my papers and pens and stapler and so forth on the piano seat and the printer behind the sofa.

Just for the day was the plan, and I ended up writing there for three or four years.

Just never moved, never tried to make things any more convenient or comfortable. I don't know what that is. I'm not a slob really, I'll keep things fairly neat and organized; I just can't stand to take time out, to go shopping, to make decisions. So I guess that's called impatience, plus I don't like to spend money, but maybe it's time. I'll be very concerned that certain other people are comfortable but undergo weird kinds of discomfort myself. As Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and there is something very very deep there. Nobody is gonna love us for us--that's our responsibility. Plus I'm old, practically! So hold the door for me, already, and I am so looking forward to any and all senior discounts.

I also think about dying a lot.

So let's continue to be kind to each other cause you never know when you're celebrating the last Christmas, the last New Year's, the last time you see your mother, or your brother or sister, or your spouse, or your kid, or your friend. I took a last 2011 walk around my neighborhood Tuesday night, thinking of what a rich, full year it had been.

And 2012 will have its own richness.

Or as my friend Terry Carr wrote last night: "Not a bad year, but I'm cutting it loose regardless. Clean house. Make way for the new."




  1. I am glad you have started this blog Heather and I continue to be inspired by your writing. Your honest and raw voice moves me to be just as honest with mine. For me, there is nothing like that striving towards authenticity. There's nothing like being able to grasp and stare truth in the face. You've done that. And I would also like to do that in one way or another this coming 2012. Thank you so much! :) Happy New Year!

  2. Thank you for all the work and writing you put into this blog.
    For allowing us to be part of your life.

  3. Nice pics, Heather. Especially like the sunset.

    Thx for the blog. It is indeed a very interesting way to communicate ... a touchpoint in lives that are otherwise separated in time, temperment, life work, a whole continent.

    I turn 60 this year as well and it seems to be a not very biggish big deal. Why should 60 be any different than say, 59 or 61? I'm thinking it has something to do with death, but I might just be indulging my neurasthenia (blog watching also expands one's vocabulary!).

    Anyway, blessings to you and yours, and keep those pics and postings coming.


  4. I wouldn't be anonymous except I don't know how to get on otherwise. Just wanted to say, love love love your blog. I try to get on at least once a week. Sometimes, every day. Your commentary, your examination of poets and writers and artists(thus introducing me to them), your photos, just everything. What a gift.
    And by the way, being 60 is great. Age is such a gift, I've found, learning detachment, getting more simple, more thankful, all good.
    Heather please may I ask your prayers for a young man named Ryan who is dying of cirrhosis, in a coma, and his parents are about to let him go. He needs prayer so desperately. Thank you in advance.
    God bless you and give you a wonderful grace filled 2012.

  5. "I'm gonna turn 60--60, for the love of all that is holy!--"

    Which, to those of us aged 62, makes you a hot younger chick. It's all a matter of the view from where you stand.

    Like Kathy, I'm glad you started this blog. I never miss a post, because you never seem to miss a beat. I look forward to spending a portion of 2012 with the fruit of your substantial talent.

    Have a great New Year, Heather.

  6. `Heather--your blog is an act of self donation. Readers respond in an act of mutual self-donation. From Witness to Hope: "Given the intensely personal nature of the encounter with God, the human person must enjoy freedom, [because] an authentic relationship of mutual self-giving can only be entered freely." You've chosen "the most excellent way", at times with juice. That allows all your readers to do likewise. There are limits to what we can know about God and each other, but the venue of your blog allows us to participate freely--with you--in "...the mystery and wonder and paradox and suffering and love and books and ideas and Christ [that we have, together]." Don't stop.

    John W. White
    Purcellville, VA

  7. I'm grateful to be, in a small way, part of your world. Thanks for giving of yourself!

  8. Thanks for writing about the beautiful lofty things that give us some measure of hope and serenity in this all too divided world. The partisan bloggers are vexatious to the spirit.



  9. Our Dear Heather, you really do crack me up the way you can be refreshingly unPC...did I sniff a hint that we all are perhaps a bit off plumb--together off plumb-- our readership in evidence of such? If so, then count me in by all means! Your blog is the first ever that I have followed and the only that I have ever harped up for. I love you and the other readers, the really rich comments on these topics that make my heart sing.
    Orchestra Conductor Heather, you're the best! Happy New Year to you and to all of you...any friend of Heather's is a friend of mine!

  10. Me, too. I found you, Heather, through your piece in The Sun Magazine a few months ago, and have been a faithful reader of your blog ever since. Also, I have read 'Redeemed' and am skipping around in 'Shirt of Flame' currently. I count discovering you and your unique (yet, for me, highly relatable) voice among my biggest blessings this year. Gratefully -- Nancy

  11. My own Mary Beth (not the one who posts here) and I and the dog are here at my Mom's place for New Years Eve. We are alternating between drawing and reading (me), knitting (Mom), playing a game on her laptop (Mary Beth) and trying to convince me to out in the cold for another walk (the dog). I suppose some would find that un-exciting.

    We are two 52s and one 82 which gives us a - oh wait, the dog who in 'human years' is 28 - gives a combined age of something well over 60. If that doesn't make you feel better, I tried.

    We don't plan on doing anything tonight except going to bed early enough to get to Mass tomorrow morning (well, Mary Beth and me at least). Woo hoo, eh.

    Thanks for continuing to write, the blog and your books. You're a light in a dark blogosphere.

  12. You give me so many things to think about, Heather. And I hate to say it, but your blog would be different (and maybe not as good) if you could afford to have multiple tea selections. Best wishes for a healthy, happy 2012!

  13. Heather, this in reference to Bird said's comment that you are Orchestra Conductor that makes her heart sing. Lovely words. Reminds me of some similar words I read recently, "Be a string in the concert of God's joy." Sorry, I can't remember the author.

    Love to all the strings out there!

  14. God bless you, Heather. You're such a pleasure to read. Happy New Year!
    -Mike Demers

  15. Nice last post of the old year, Heather! Well, more than nice, as everyone here as already attested.
    I have the honor of being one of the musicians who play (piano currently- we are waiting for a new organ) at my large parish in central Ohio. At the 4 pm Mass today, the church was packed to overflowing. People sang out all the hymns, but the one that had me a little teary, as I was really paying attention to all the verses, was "Away In a Manger". The last two lines of the last verse: "Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there" resonated with me tonight. Lovely to be reminded of our calling- to let God "fit us for Heaven". Your blog is a great help for going deeper and farther towards that goal.
    To a blessed New Year, and to all my dear fellow blog readers!

  16. I, too, love the photographs, especially the first and the last.

    It's 2012 where I am -- and still 2011 where you are as I write. But here's wishing you the happiest of New Years, and of course blessings on that impending "milestone" birthday! (This year I celebrate the silver anniversary of my eighteenth birthday.)

    I've been blogging for something like ten years now (began in the summer of 2002), and I echo the sentiments expressed above: You are one of the shining lights -- a soft steady glow, never a harsh glare! If I can get vernacular for a second, keep bringing the awesome!

    Many blessings of the New Year and of today's feast of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.

  17. Happy New Year! I love your blog and stop by every day. Thank you so much. Now that I have you in my life, I don't know how I got by without you before.

  18. David DeAtkine, Jr., MDJanuary 1, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    Please keep doing what you do...your blog and your books mean so much to so many. As one reader who comes from the right end of the political spectrum, your writing brings me out of myself and makes me question the importance and honesty of my views. Your love and gratefulness to God, and your wonder at his very good Creation, baptizes everything you write. May God bless and keep you, may His light shine upon you.

  19. Happy New Year Heather! Thank you for your writing - I definitely concur with the other comments here. Your writing has challenged, console and encouraged me this year and I know I have changed by God's grace through your writing here. Keep it up! God bless you today and every day of 2012.

  20. Dear Heather, I know that we have corresponded only a few times. I visit your blog as often as I can, as the time permits, and there is always something there of great value. You certainly never write empty words. So, anyway, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year: may it bring love and goodness, health, and lots of great jolts of wonderful creation as you continue to write. :)

  21. Happy New Year Heather. You rock! Thank you for writing. It means a lot to me.

  22. Whoa, thank you so much, all of you--I am not used to such an outpouring of good to hear from so many regulars, some new folks, some folks who are generally know how you all brought in the new know everyone isn't 24...though I hope SOME readers are 24...speaking of which, thank you, Kevin: I just may start "dating" this decade:-)

    I am just basking in Palm Springs. I don't know if anyone's been here, but citrus trees LITERALLY droop their fruit over the sidewalk: lemons, mandarin oranges, grapefruits...

    Anyway, wishing you all a beautiful first week of 2012--a big heart, a capacity for love, an ability to forge your own way...and on we go...

  23. Also, please know I have been keeping Ryan, who is dying of cirrhosis, in prayer and have made a note that's been on my desk the last few days...

  24. Heather,

    I‘m 25; is that close enough? :)

    Anyway, just wanted to ring in the new year with gratitude for your blog, and your spirited words, and the (rather alternative) life you lead that encourages me as a younger one on a similar journey.

    Thanks for speaking to the mystery, for lifting up Christ again and again, and remembering to attend and speak to the all-too-human fears, sufferings and failures of us all.

    I read all your posts, and they often speak to something going on in my life, so I suspect the Spirit is here. And I always marvel at your photos which so beautifully capture the gleam in what (I confess) I thought was such a grimy city.

    Anyway, this is that lesbian non-Catholic 25-year-old complete stranger from a previous post. Just a reminder of your diverse readership! :)

    Many prayers for your new year, and much gratitude for the ways you have blessed this particular reader.


  25. Rachel! Again, so happy to know of you and to hear from you. Glad the blog is any source of interest, consolation, challenge, good cheer--Happy New Year to you, and blessings as we launch/lurch/stumble/joyfully careen into 2012...

  26. I keep re-reading this post, particularly this paragraph: "I never wanted to do any such thing as invite cheap hits by fomenting useless discussion, vitriolic argument and marketplace Catholicism. Tabloid is tabloid, and I take great pride that if you want to gossip about Fr. Corapi, Fr. Pavone, the inner Vatican, etc. etc. you're not even gonna find that stuff here. I never wanted to hitch my wagon to a cause, or promote my work by purporting to be on the right "side" of anything. I wanted to write about mystery and wonder and paradox and suffering and love and books and ideas and Christ and I have."
    That is exactly how I felt about my blog when I kept it. So very well said. Your blog is a gift I do not take for granted.
    Dana from NH

  27. Dana, from my beloved home state of New Hampshire--thank you so much and welcome!...


I WELCOME your comments!!!