Thursday, June 29, 2006

In the spring of 1975, I discovered a new kind of relationship to single men. It was partly the fault of those guys who lived at the house on Oriole Place. I’ll never forget the night Jack Milam danced with me in that living room. It was just a short dance, I have no idea what the music was, but it was the first (and last) time that a truly gifted dancer had led me, and I found out I could respond and feel incredibly graceful and together with him. Mind you, dancing in my high school and college days was either far apart, with psychedelic gyrations, or if it was a slow dance, the feet were hardly moving and the emphasis was on pressing as much flesh as possible. I had never met someone before who could really partner me in a dance. This was a revelation to me as a way of experiencing and expressing the differences in masculinity and femininity.

You’ll remember those two guys I rode back from Abilene with, Clark Collins and Fred Walker. Well, Fred and I had some sort of instant connection. I felt comfortable talking to him, I felt his affection for me, and I wanted more of whatever this “brothers and sisters in the Lord” thing was. There was an intimacy and vulnerability and openness and willingness I had never met before in a male person of my own age. I wrote about it. This friendship with him made me feel for the first time how very untrusting and untrustworthy my heart had been up to this point, and made me want to change, and be changed.

Father, these are some of the gifts You have given me in these days:
“Do you want to come get coffee with us?”
“Praise Jesus!” (in answer to my “I’ve gotten spoiled to seeing you.”)
“We need to do some sharing, heart to heart.”
“Father, we just want to do Your will.”
“Sister, I’m trying to walk in the Spirit.”
A warm Spirit-filled prayer of a hug…
An extended arm that says, like Jesus, “Come…”
A grip on my shoulder…
Arms that encircle me and lift me in the spirit towards God…
Someone in whom I see Jesus working through a yielded spirit…
A man who prays with me and for me…
A gentle, reassuring touch that says God loves me.

And Father, what have I given You in return?
The groanings of a disappointed child
Attention paid to fleshly desires
Time stolen from relationship with You
The schemings of one who doesn’t trust her Father’s love
Fears and comparisons and spiteful thoughts

But I confess before you, God, that You are doing a work.
You are working in me trust, and patience,
a greater freedom in Your Spirit,
the conviction that Your mighty plan transcends
momentary human desire,
but the corresponding conviction that Your love for me
is mighty, and that my heritage is really beautiful,
the hope and the faith that You are in me to will
and to work Your good pleasure,
and the desire to be pure and wholly Yours.

I praise and bless Your name
I magnify Your glory, and confess that You are
exalted above all creation
I bless the name of Jesus
and I praise and bless God.
Make my life the life of Christ.
Make of me a blessing.
I praise You.

Take our futures and make them work
completely according to Your holy will.

Praise You for the faith that You can do it.
Praise You for the hope that You will.
Praise You for the assurance that You are at work.
Thank You, Lord.

I wrote my mother sometime that spring. I had never lived in a real barren winter or lush springtime before, and it astounded me. “Dear Momma, I’d love to talk to you but I’m just about broke and last month’s phone bill was a tad embarrassing. So I’m being conservative, and besides you can keep a letter. This morning I felt like I had to write you just to tell about the beauty. I drive down Fairfax between West End and 21st and it’s as though the street were planted to be beautiful in spring. This is the first week the leaves are really bursting out, little crinkled pale green and yellow, and that looks fairytale-ish to me all be itself. Then there’s lots of redbud trees, and the cherry trees are mostly in bloom, and the daisies (“weeds” Daddy called them) and daffodils, etc. are all over. The sweetest blessing for me is that our yard is full of wild violets! like the Pink House used to have on 29th. Not so lush, but they’re all over. Today it was warm and humid and green smelling (70º) and the sky was tremendous, lots of clouds. So the day itself was a blessing. Of course, there’s a tornado watch tonight but I’m not too worried.

“The activities of the day turned out to be even more exciting. I got to go to ladies’ Bible class this morning, about six young mothers and six old ladies (70s) and Martha Finto and Martha Allen (one of Naomi’s roommates) all shared a scripture and talked a little. The theme of the morning turned out to be anxiety, and it was such a thrill to hear those sweet women who’ve walked with the Lord seventy years tell about His faithfulness. One lady read the 23rd Psalm and another commented, “Can’t be beat.” I loved it.

“This afternoon was really exciting too (it gets better and better, just like life in the Lord). If you’ve ever heard of William Stringfellow, I read a book by him in about 10th grade about his experience being a Christian lawyer in Harlem and it really moved me. He was invited to speak to a class at Vanderbilt called “Death and Dying” and I got to go hear him. He nearly died two years ago of a rare disease and he talked about the same thing that he had said in the book ten years ago – that the power of the resurrection is available now. In other words than these he said that if you’ve already died you’re free to live, free from the fear of death. Death is the moral force against God and it’s what most ‘sins’ stem from – materialism, hunger for power, violence come from fear of death and are forms of idolatry of death. Anyhow, in essence he preached the gospel to these Vanderbilt students, who didn’t seem to get it. But we did and it was so neat to hear him speak in such faith and commitment and yet in such scholarly, sharp, intelligent terms. Whew. You might really appreciate the book My People is the Enemy.

“Then since I wanted to go to his speech I missed Vultee and got to go to Belmont. I’ve only missed about three Wednesday nights all year so I figured I deserved a break (small joke – you understand). Anyway, the service was a real blessing, as always, and afterwards I got to talk to Bob Mason and several other fine people. Then as I was talking to Fred Walker (my dear crush, the first one I’ve ever tried to walk completely in the Lord’s will) he asked me to go with a bunch of them to eat. I was delighted, since two weeks ago I got to be with him so much, in that way twice (it was three weeks ago) and then the past two weeks I was really praying that the Lord’s will be done and I hardly saw him at all. Anyhow, as he dropped me off, he said we should get together sometimes and ‘do a little sharing heart to heart,’ and got my phone number. Now I’m trying to stay completely calm and just ask the Lord to work and thank Him for each little blessing. But it’s such a major encouragement to be with fine strong growing men who belong to Jesus and seek God’s will.

“The Lord never did a better thing than bringing me here. I keep getting to know and be with more people every few weeks, as though I were settling in for a good while. Wouldn’t that be a funny turn of events. The fellowship here is just constantly available and always a great strength and blessing. If I thought I could keep you at Belmont I’d almost wish you would come live here. Never to Nashville for itself, just for what God’s doing. Bob Mason and I prayed for you tonight.

“There’s been a crazy little thing happening this week which I should tell you about on the condition that you only pray about it and not worry. I’m concerned enough for both of us. I’ll tell you first that Don Finto and Bob Mason both know all the people involved and are somewhat excited about it and are praying. I’ll tell you names even though they won’t mean anything to you. Two fellows, Don Woerner and Jack Groschmal, and I got together at a well-known man’s home recording studio this Saturday and cut two demo tapes which will likely be sold soon. Demos are like sample recordings of songs that people take around to music and publishing companies to promote songs, etc.; but one of the songs may be sold as a final version and we’ll get the profits. Here’s the basic story – it all fell together last week without any planning. There’s a guy at Belmont who does the recording of sermons, etc., who’s a pretty well-known song writer, Gary Paxton (Tell Chip he wrote “Alley-Oop”) who talked to Don about getting a group up to do demos for him regularly, and if the group developed and was good he’d be glad to help it in whatever way.

“Well – all this has rather bowled me over, to the extent that I’ve been nervous about it, sort of felt like it was all so quick that it might go on developing at breakneck speed and be like a whirlpool and suck me in against my will or deceive me somehow. But the Lord knows (because Don Finto and Bob Mason and others and I are telling him) that I want His will. That if it’s supposed to go, it’ll be amazingly obvious, and if not it’ll just be defeated. The real point in its’ favor it that everyone involved is a Christian and wants to praise the Lord only, and the songs are all gonna be about Him. So you can pray. It may fizzle out.

“Bob Mason was funny tonight – he got all excited as I was telling him and said in his prayer that if this meant I should stay in Nashville and not go to Yale he was so thankful because that’s what he wants. (On the other hand it could be the way I could finance the year and not have to kill myself working. God’s will be done.) I told Bob I was trying to have a crush in the Spirit and he should pray God would find me someone (everybody’s so fired up about Christian marriages being made around here) and he said, ‘Some fellow’s in for a real blessing.’ So sweet…

“I miss old Sharyn and Chip a lot. Give them both hugs, and Sara and Caren, and Mrs. and Dr. Young, etc. etc. I love you so much, sweet Momma. Bless your heart. Father God, bless us both with your peace and strength— Love you, Gwen”

Well…it wasn’t the right time or the right people yet, but it turned out that this little flirtation with the music industry was a portent of things to come which I could hardly being to imagine.

I’ll introduce a few more players to the cast of Tennessee characters that came from my parents’ life. Momma and Daddy’s first home together had been in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Daddy had the nerve to be a conscientious objector during World War II (as were both his brothers), so his service time was spent at Camp Forrest near Tullahoma, where German prisoners of war were eventually brought. He worked at least part of the time as a supply sergeant, and managed the officers’ club. Someone said he had a silk smoking jacket (he didn’t smoke) and looked quite the elegant gent for an enlisted man. The story goes that there was a $500 governmental limit on how much one could spend on new construction, and they cobbled together a one-room home for that price in which many house parties were enjoyed, with folks spending the night on the fold out bed and in chairs.

In Tullahoma, they met a couple at church who would prove to be dear friends for the rest of their lives. Jack and Frances Thomas were older than my folks by a few years, and well established in the community. He ended up the high school principal, and Frances would walk across the street to substitute teach “with a Bible under one arm and Uncle Remus under the other,” as she wrote in a letter to me. Frances was the one who taught me about B’rer Rabbit and the Brier Patch, a classic tale of brain over brawn.

Here’s a party at the Whitesells before most of the children were born, with Norvel and Helen Young, Suzanne Moore in Grandmommie Whitesell’s arms, Dot and J.C. (my folks), Frances and Jack Thomas and Marian Whitesell Moore. Her husband Paul (my dad’s brother) was probably taking the picture, as was usual for him.

I didn’t know this until a few years ago, and was properly horrified when I heard the story. Apparently one day after church Frances had invited a large gathering to their yard for a Sunday dinner picnic, and my dad walked up to her and said, “You know, you’ll be ruining a perfectly wonderful meal if you don’t make some hot bread to go with this.” So she dutifully returned to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of hot buttermilk biscuits to satisfy him. I couldn’t believe it.

But the story fit with my mom’s tale that when they married, he said she needed to learn how to make perfect cornbread. She tried recipe after recipe until she hit upon the one that pleased him most, and indeed I’ve always thought her cornbread was the best I’ve ever had. Of course, most people think the way their mother made cornbread or biscuits is the way it should be done. I’ve included the recipe in the Appendix. I titled it “Grandmommie’s Cornbread” because that’s what Momma called it when she gave it to me. Could it be that after trying numerous recipes, Daddy settled on his mother-in-law’s cornbread as the winner? It seems so.
Frances was a great hostess. Even after she stopped cooking, she would take her own placemats and napkins to the restaurant where she and Jack would feed us. And both of them always made me feel as if I were part of the party, instead of an appendage to be relegated to the den. The day after Momma’s funeral, Chip and I went to visit them, and Frances remarked, “Now this is true friendship. We couldn’t come to you, so you came to us."

More dear friends from the early days remained part of our family circle. Harold and Helen Buchi were also a couple a bit older than my folks who show up in the pictures of parties and gatherings from the Nashville days before children, and continued being dear to us till their deaths. You’ll note the photo of their daughter, Barbara, who was my age, standing with me in the Youngs’ driveway the summer we moved to California, 1958. They also had another daughter and a son closer to Chip’s age. He established Buchi Plumbing, and sadly was killed in a car accident not long after my dad’s death, so Helen and my mom began to take trips together from time to time. His accidental death occurred tragically just after they had completed their “dream house” which held many elements that also became my idea of a dream house.

It was on a short block called Cantrell, and featured a round three story stone tower as part of the front door, with a spiral staircase to the basement. Dividing two separate guest bathrooms was a rough stone wall with natural ledges where Helen put tiny objects like a gnome or fairy. There was a landing on the second floor that overlooked the library, with a free-standing stained glass window in a frame, and in that library there was a great find, one of the study tables from a Peabody building that was being discarded.

There were Persian rugs and a grand piano in the living room, and a real Japanese rock garden outside that room. A wonderful brick fireplace in the family room at the back of the house made a cozy corner where we would sit and chat with Helen in easy chairs. She was such a delightful, positive, lively person. She had a collection of “ABC” books which I added to every Christmas, and she built my collection of Arthur Rackham fairytale illustrations with a Christmas gift each year.

A Day in the Country

Naomi had found a young man I would have described as “stone country”. He was named Clay Taylor and the three of us became friends. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tillman Taylor, lived in Clarksville and one day we went to visit them. On their door was a calling card on which was printed “Mr. and Mrs. Tillman Taylor” and in pencil, “Come in. Back soon.” Clay said I could keep that, and it’s taped in one of my journals still. The day was so rich that of course I had to take notes. It turned out that the Taylors had known Dieter Alten, one of my favorite German preachers. When the American missionaries send him to school at Lipscomb, he would preach at the Taylors’ congregation. Mr. Taylor said, “Dieter Alten had compassion for a little orphaned opossum, and he fixed up an incubator and tried to feed it milk with a nipple.” Here are more quotes:
(Apparently, when he was a little boy, Clay used to go outside and preach sermons to his pets or the side of the barn.)
“I remember the subject of one sermon – it was shorts. Wearing shorts.”
“Were you for or against it?”
“See all the girls he knew was his sister, and all she knew was what her parents said, and so that was the way they saw things.”
I gleaned a series of classic Southernisms for my collection:
That’s a whole different set of dogs.
He was choppin’ cotton trying to get something done.
We searched for dear life…
Cute as a speckled puppy under a red wagon…
Slow as sorghum in January…
He probably preached to the barn what he and the fireplace had discussed that morning.
If it takes a woodchuck with a rubber bill nine months and thirteen days to pick a hole through a cypress log big enough to make a bundle of shingles selling for 65¢, how long would it take a grasshopper with a cork leg to kick the juice out of a dill pickle big enough to make a meal for a bull snake and a rhinoceros?


Springtime was full of Nashville beauty, with the redbuds and dogwoods and fruit trees all in bloom. Grandmommie decided it was time for her to sell the Primrose house and move to the nursing home on Wedgewood Avenue, called Lakeshore. Before she moved, I asked her to take me on a tour of her backyard garden for the last time, so I could write down everything she was growing at that moment. She had sweet peas, candy tuft, yarrow, larkspur, ragged robin, Queen Anne’s Lace, and something she pronounced “awthrawatera”.

I’m so grateful for that year spent “getting to know the relatives better” because it was mostly about Grandmommie, who was not going to be with us all that much longer. If V.M. hadn’t asked me to “carry” her over to his house every Wednesday night, I wouldn’t have been able to collect these precious quotes from her and save them in my journal:

“My dad went to college, you know; he said it was a waste of time, he didn’t encourage his children to go to college. Anyway, he had numerous volumes of Thackaway and Miltons and do you know, I read them, and they were bastards from start to finish!”
“But I thought Milton was a Christian…” I offered.
“Well, who was another well-known English writer?”
“Maybe Wordsworth?” I guessed.
“That sounds terribly familiar. But I remember that Thackaway. Why, the terrible lives they led, why I just couldn’t imagine. I was 14 or 16, a young girl when I read them. Just bastards from start to finish.”

~ o ~
“I thought it was such a pretty name – Dortherea –
but they wouldn’t call her that. When she started to school it was ‘Dot’.”
“Well, what’s on her birth certificate?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
~ o ~
“Yes, your great-granddaddy was a ‘jelly bean,’ a real sporty young man. Dad Long owned a liquor store – it wasn’t so bad in those days, people didn’t get drunk so much – and when he went to courting my mother, she said, ‘I won’t marry a man who owns a liquor store,’ and he said, ‘Tonight’s the last time those doors will close.’ If he said something, he’d do it, so he went out and sold that store and bought a grocery store, and they went to live in the hotel.”
~ o ~
Grandmommie told me that her mother used to put her nine children out of the house in the morning after breakfast, and tell them they were not allowed to come back in until dinner time. If they got hungry, they were welcome to eat sugar cookies from a barrel she kept on the back porch. “I don’t like sugar cookies to this day,” she told me.
~ o ~
Mildred Thurman asked Grandmommie, “Which of your children are you partial to?” and she responded, “Whichever one needs me the most.”
~ o ~
Little Bob said, ‘Did you know I’m going to heaven? You’re going to miss me.’ It was almost more than I could take.” (Bob was V.M. and Lois’s first child, who died at the age of five.)
~ o ~
Momma told me to ask Grandmommie about the lady who got fatter and fatter until she wouldn’t go out of the house. “I don’t know why that strikes me so funny,” says Mom, cracking up one morning. The prisoner of her own girth turned out to be Eva Stinson, Uncle Gid’s daughter.
~ o ~
“Aint Addie, Virgil’s sister – you know, they’re all Cumberland Presbyterian – ”
No, indeed, I had never heard about any non-Church of Christ folks in the family tree. And I found out that a Methodist had snuck in there too!
~ o ~
“You’ve been a right industrious child…”
~ o ~
“That’s like my dad…he built a two-story house with half a saw and a hammer.”
~ o ~
“You know, Virgil proposed in a letter, and I answered him with that Ruth passage about ‘Entreat me not to leave thee…’ Dan Harless preached on Ruth the day Virgil died, and I told him, ‘Why, you like to killed me with that.’ He said, ‘I’m glad you told me.’”
~ o ~
“Now, be sure you know what you’re doing!! – and then you don’t.” (She laughed at herself, and the foibles of being human.) “A Ph.D., I guess it’s nice to have one, if you have your religion too. Now you make sure you have that.”
~ o ~
I asked her, “You know what you said to me one day?”
“There’s no tellin’,” she replied, with a smile.
~ o ~

Here’s a family photo taken on the back porch of the Whitesell house on Primrose, before Chip and I were born. Grandmommie lived there for fifty years, and then sold it to friends of mine. The kids in the picture are the two oldest, Suzanne and Ronny, our double cousins. The others from the left are: my dad, J.C. Moore, Jr.; Patsy and J.C. Moore, Sr.; V.M. Whitesell and his dad, Virgil; my mom, Dorothy (Dot), just above “Munner” (Nannie’s mother). Up top next to Virgil is his wife Bonnie Whitesell (Grandmommie) with her daughter-in-law Lois just below her; Marian (Mom’s and V.M.’s sister) holds Ronny; and Martha Nell and Winston Moore, probably newlyweds.

“Pappy Whitesell’s sister married ‘Font’ Harris. My great-great-grandmother, Martha Jane Harris, married a Stinson; her daughter Betty married a Long; and they had me, Bonnie. Uncle Gideon Stinson (a great-great uncle to you) was a big man in Lewisburg. Jim (James Gideon Long) was named after him. Cud’n Pokey (Pocahontas) Considine, Virgil’s cousin lived to be one hundred years old.
“Pap (J.L.) and Mammy (Betty) Long had nine children. I’ll tell you their names and who they married”
Vance and Ina Claxton had J.V. and Melissa (who married Trine Starnes).
Ross and Inda McNatt (these live in Huntsville, Alabama)
Raby and Mattie Lou McNatt (these live near Shelbyville)
Carl and Mary McNatt; Carl died, then Mary married O’Dell McKinney
Wilburn and Bess McKnight
Virgil and Bonnie Whitesell
Jim and Christine Long
Lester and Grace Mallard (Methodist!) Long
John Leon and Leona Long had Louise, a librarian who lives in Deckard.”

Here are, from left, Bess, Mary, Mattie Lou (pronounced “Aint Maddalu” all my life) and Bonnie, four out of the six Long sisters.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The fall in Nashville passed. I watched the squirrels play on the Peabody campus. I heard them play in the attic over my bedroom. They seemed to have a favorite game of rolling nuts across the floor – my ceiling – as if they were bowling. I watched the leaves turn so beautifully all over town, and the air turn crisp. I made good friends with a lady named Jessie in my library school classes, and I spent a lot of time at Naomi’s house, getting to know all these single people my age who went to Belmont to church.

Naomi got a job as a secretary in the Office of University Ministry at Vanderbilt, and she was amazed at the lack of faith she found there. But there was a lady whose husband taught in the Divinity School who was attracted to Naomi’s vibrant relationship with God. Shirley Forstman would often talk with Naomi, and finally decided that her daughter Val would do well to meet the likes of us. Val came over to the Lone Oak house for musical evenings, bringing her flute along with a troubled heart. It turned out she had gone to Oberlin to college and was pretty disturbed by the extreme demands for a high level of performance she felt she was under there. You could tell she was attracted to the difference in us, but it was so very different, she didn’t know how to appropriate it.

We all went to Belmont to church. Belmont was a very lively congregation. They had experienced a genuine revival in the past couple of years, and they were bursting at the seams, with people sitting in folding chairs in the aisles, sitting in the wide window sills, sitting on the stage behind the pulpit. I especially loved the “Amen Corner”, the pews that were set sideways facing the pulpit. The singing was full of power and deep devotion. Brown Bannister, one of the Texas guys I had met at Janice Hahn’s wedding to Gary Baucum, led worship sometimes and his heart was so tender it would make yours ache.

I started going to Bible studies and prayer meetings at night. At one point I was attending some meeting every night of the week but one. Someone commented, “You’re in graduate school? I didn’t know you were in school…when do you ever study?” because I rarely did. I was able to make it through the Master’s program as a “B” student without much work. I was majoring in Bible and minoring in Library Science.

And it wasn’t just Bible classes. There was a new thing happening in Christian music in Nashville as well as California. Groups were forming, original music was being written, recordings were happening. Those of us involved in Belmont Church and other fellowships as well were gathering every Saturday night to hear people play and sing. Some of them played so often that everybody learned the words to every song, and we all sang them together! Our favorite group was called Dogwood. It started out with six guys and their guitars, and finally was pared down to three. Then, when they got a record deal, one of the guys dropped out in revolt against the commercialism, and the songwriter’s wife joined them.

One might wonder why on earth a group would call themselves Dogwood. It could only happen in the South. The dogwood tree has white blossoms in the springtime, and there is a legend that the wood of the cross Jesus died on was the wood of the dogwood tree. The blossoms could represent the nails that were used in the crucifixion, because there are holes tinged with pink on the ends of the four petals.

In the music, the worship services, the Bible studies, the get-togethers at each others’ houses, there was a sense of togetherness, of adventure, of all being headed in the same direction on a journey. No matter how confused or inept we all might feel from time to time, we had each other to lean on. I was feeling myself absorb this new spirit of faith. There was an unquestioning humble acceptance of God’s will and God’s ways that I had never really witnessed before.

Having come from an academic environment where such humility would be considered mindless, this was the first time I had lived in the kind of atmosphere my heart had been longing for since I was a child. I used to read scriptures where Jesus would enter a town and heal somebody, and the “whole town rejoiced” or somewhere else, the “whole village praised God” and I would wonder what on earth would that be like? Now I had a taste of it, with these earnest and passionate believers.

At the same time, I was making more of a social break with my Church of Christ upbringing. (I had made the spiritual break long before.) My attending Belmont Church was not okay with my Nashville relatives. The minister, Don Finto, had been fired from teaching at Lipscomb because of his beliefs, and the congregation as a whole was suspect if not anathema. My uncle V.M., my mother’s brother, knew I was going to church at Belmont, and considered it his responsibility to “straighten me out.”

His first effort was to hook me into attending his congregation, Vultee, by asking me to pick up Grandmommie, bring her to his house, have dinner with all of them and then go to Wednesday night services together and deliver Grandmommie back home. It made sense because it was a way to get to know Grandmommie better by spending regular time with her. And it was great to have a nice meal at a table with a family. But the going to church part proved painful. I was in a class with Pam, my cousin and a couple of years younger than me, and I recall saying a few things that proved controversial.

V.M. then took the next step in my reformation. He invited me to have Bible studies with him. We had ten sessions, quite an investment of time and energy on both our parts, and I considered it an opportunity to really hear from “his side.” I wanted to ask him one main question, and I did. I said, “I realize that you and many other folks, when you read the Bible, have a certain filter you put over it. You believe certain passages apply to us today, and certain other passages only apply to people ‘back then,’ in the days of Jesus or the early church. So tell me, how do you determine which passages apply to us and which don’t? Is there some kind of rule or guideline you go by?” He really didn’t have a satisfying answer.

I felt it was an opportunity to share some stories he’d probably never heard the like of before, things that I knew of personally and things that others had told me. It was distressing to him to feel that he had done his best to persuade me of my errors, and hadn’t really budged me an inch. And I could sense he was stunned, shocked by a few of the tales of miraculous, supernatural interventions of God that I had witnessed or heard of. I talked about physical healing, speaking in tongues, prophecy. He had to be freaking out inside. He finally gave up. He called a truce, which resulted in his having nothing to say to me for the next several years.

0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0
I wrote to Mike every once in awhile. Here’s a letter from November 20, 1974.

Dear Mike,

I’m sitting in a graduate (still amazes me) carrel in the Vanderbilt library – not at all aesthetic, like UCLA if you ever went there to study. I feel more like writing you than thinking about the quarrel between Hemingway and Max Eastman. That’s one of the piddly little things I get to play with this week in Bibliography and Literary Research. Oh, for a paper to do on some intriguing religious topic! I’ve been attempting a more realistic attitude this week though. Probably in the middle of some semester in Divinity School I’d feel equally as itchy to be getting on with Real things. Even more realistic than that – I’d be equally embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and progress.

I’m wondering what this semester’s work has taught you, whether you did that Puritan paper, etc.

I also wonder why it is that my character gets worked on so much. Maybe I’m more aware of my faults than most people. The past few weeks we have had crash courses in the areas of: Giving Up, Patience, Criticism and Responsibility. Without giving away any particulars, I want to praise God that He’s helped me do and not hear only, a little lately. It feels like progress. In terms of being critical (of other people) I must be a real mess because I’ve had to have so many different lessons in it. It’s a blessing that I don’t understand – I don’t react that way to you at all. I must respect you too much or something.

Naomi passed on a possibly apocryphal tale that delighted me. Sam Jackson and your friend and mine J. Gaston, as you know, attended Wenatchee High School at approximately the same time, and it is said that they made one another’s acquaintance under a table.
“Under a table. I think it was noisy in the cafeteria, or they were throwing food or something, so Sam went under a table and there was old Jerry.”
“Them Wenatchee people.”
“Yep, I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s funny, right?”

We’ve had sort of a workshop in New Testament conversion around here the past few weeks. A girl named Pam came to Nashville in August after having been thrown out of the house, and having to sell everything she owned. Didn’t know why she felt compelled to come here. She met one of the girls Naom lives with, started coming to Belmont and over to Naomi’s and asking all sorts of questions. (She’s from a Church of Christ missionary ultra-conservative family and hasn’t ever heard anything else.) Her life since she was 14 has been drugs and drunks and performing in rock groups and two years with an Edgar Cayce ~ demonic ~ seances type group. In the past two months she’s given all that up, and tried to seek the Lord. Because of that she’s had her car repossessed (her dad stopped the insurance payment), lost her job (her drinking buddies turned her in as a junkie), and at least three or four other traumatic experiences. She got herself baptized this morning at 2:00 am. If you feel like praying for her you should. It’s gonna be a real spiritual battle. Poorly told story but it’s meant a lot to me to be in on it. I’m always surprised at how surprised I am when what I talk about in theory really works.

I think I’ll be in Malibu at Christmas. Are you going to play the hermit again?

In our Hope,
“Hats off!” cried the midget. “Hats off to the human condition!” — Merton
Lone Oak
After awhile of living at Duane and Carol Doidge’s, I started visiting at Naomi’s house more and more. It was fun being around four single women my age, it was fun getting to know the three who were new to me, and it was fun being out from under anyone’s control.

Elaine Davidson and Naomi had a tradition that Saturday was Fun Day. They would put on their overalls, tie on their bandanas, and head out the door looking for adventure. I loved joining them. Once we drove to Shelbyville where Elaine grew up and met her mom, and all of us went to the Jack Daniels Distillery, a local tourist attraction. Once I went horseback riding with Elaine and a few others, and another Saturday we took the wheat that Elaine’s daddy had grown to a mill for it to be ground.

This was my year to discover Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Naomi sat me down at their house one Saturday and played it for me, and I couldn’t believe all the feelings it inspired in me. It was like discovering the Impressionists all over again. It was refreshingly simple, modern yet classic, delightful, spare…sort of like the Shaker furniture that I envisioned when the Shaker theme Simple Gifts appeared in the Copland suite. I learned the words to Simple Gifts from Judy Collins, and thus began a fascination with the Shakers. I’ve visited their Pleasant Hill settlement in Kentucky twice, read several books and listened to their music. At one time, I shared their desire to create a Utopia on earth, and that impulse got me into a lot of trouble later in life.

Naomi and Elaine, Beckie and Martha lived in a little house on Lone Oak, and one block over on Oriole was a house with four single men who also went to Belmont. Clark Collins, Billy Mitchell, Fred Walker and Jack Milam were there at first. Later, the same house held four more precious men, three of whom who came to play huge roles in my life: Bob Farnsworth, Brown Bannister, Earl Carlisle, and Marty McCall. What a house! What a neighborhood.

One day that spring, I was riding a bike around the neighborhood when a blonde lady I had seen at church stepped out of the Oriole house and said, “Hey! Why don’t you stop awhile and visit?” It was Carol Ann Jackson Thomas, someone who would become one of my dearest friends. That spring afternoon in 1975 was the beginning of a very significant bond.

And there was another house full of boys that played a powerful role that first year in Nashville. A widower named Maddox had married a widow named Forrester, and together they created quite a remarkable household. Tim and Rob Maddox and Kim and Brad Forrester became step-brothers, and precious Vali Forrester was more outnumbered than ever as the only little girl. (No wonder she grew up to direct The Vagina Monologues at Vanderbilt.)

One night I was at the Lone Oak house and I got a hankering to go over to the Maddox/Forresters’ to see if anybody was home to talk to. As I got into the Camaro in the driveway, I clearly heard inside my heart, “Don’t go.” “But Lord,” I argued, “what could it possibly hurt? I’m not serious about any of them. I can’t mess up anything by visiting over there.” “Don’t go,” came even more insistently. I decided to pretend that it wasn’t really the Lord speaking, and I went.

Well, after I had driven around for ten or fifteen minutes unable to find their house, which I’d been to more than once, I gave up and turned back toward Lone Oak. I was at a corner on Caldwell where there used to be a stop sign. Not long after this evening, the city installed a traffic light. It was a blind hill, and after I had looked to the right, then the left, then the right again, I headed out, and SLAMMM! My car was hit by an oncoming car from the left, pushed into a ditch, and I found myself somehow getting out of the passenger door (with the engine still racing but the car stopped dead).

It was a teenager driving the family car. He had hit my door with the whole front end of this car which has just recently been repaired from another accident he had been in. It really was equally our faults…I hadn’t realized that the left side of the road was such a blind hill, since it was dark, and therefore my last glance had not been to the left. And I pulled out in front of him and took him so by surprise, he didn’t have much time to stop.

His parents came to pick him up and they graciously gave me a ride home to the Doidges’ house on Cherokee. I was starting to hurt, to shake from being in shock, so when I got in and called my mom, I started to cry. Duane reassured her that I was okay, and I went to bed. I lay there in the dark, feeling very remorseful, realizing that the Lord had warned me not to go, and the accident would never have happened if I had been obedient. I started apologizing to Him, begging His forgiveness, and I heard, as clearly as before, Him speak to my heart, “I love you. I love you.”

I cried all the more. I really expected a stern, disciplinarian, angry father, and what I got was His mercy and acceptance. It was the first time I had really known all the way through that God loved me, even at this worst part of me, my lifelong struggle with my will and disobedience. All these years later, I still have broken blood vessels in both my legs that remind me of this lesson in love. He saved my life that night.
Christmas with Danny
Christmas approached and I planned to go home to Mom’s house for awhile. Of course I would see Danny. We had written a little bit, but not enough to give me a sense of what to expect when I saw him again. Certainly no assurance that he knew what he wanted. And my time with Mike Johnston had not strengthened my desire for Danny’s much less verbal, less intellectually engaging companionship.

I saw his apartment in Orange County, met a guy who was apparently his roommate, and Danny and I spent some time together. Then on Sunday, he drove out to Malibu. We were on campus for awhile, and he played the piano in the auditorium where we had the campus church services. He seemed so affectionate, much more at ease being with me than he had been before. I had made plans to spend the night at Caren Hauser’s apartment so Momma wouldn’t be disturbed by my coming in late (and wouldn’t need to know when that was), although Danny had never given me cause before to anticipate a very late night. It turned out that plan to stay at Caren’s was more strategic than I would have dreamed.

We sat on a couch in her living room, everyone else had gone to bed, and it was getting past midnight, and Danny was still wide awake and talking. This was so bizarre, I was pretty sure he was going to tell me that he wanted to get married. Why else the affectionate touch, the easiness, the late night energy? Finally he said, “You know that guy you met in my apartment? I’m gay, and he’s my lover.”


I was stunned. I was speechless. I felt like I’d received a major blow to my gut. After that, I have no recollection of what I said or did, or how we said goodnight or goodbye. I was sufficiently numb and sufficiently present to be there with him. We spent the four hours after midnight really speaking to each other. I just remember crawling into Caren’s bed and telling her what had happened. She and I were up the rest of the night praying in English and praying in the Spirit. It was absolutely amazing that God had given me this resource on the hardest night of my life, that Caren was willing to labor with me in prayer. She must have sensed the serious crisis this was to me, and how deeply I was shaken.

The next day was a nightmare. I was obligated to go with my mother to Disneyland, to entertain some people – I don’t know who they were or even how many, I was so distracted by my internal distress. It appeared to be unofficial Gay Pride Day at Disneyland that day. Half the people I passed in the crowds at the park seemed to be screaming homosexuals. Maybe it was just my newfound sensitivity, maybe it was Satan playing with my head, but it was extremely hard to walk through that day with any kind of grace toward my mother and her guests. I felt assaulted. I was torn up inside.

I was still in California about a week later and Danny invited me to have dinner with him and a gay friend of his, an older man named Doug. Danny explained that they weren’t lovers, that Doug was just a friend, but when we sat over dinner and talked, it was evident to me that Doug was in a mentoring relationship with this newly “out of the closet” young man, and was influencing him powerfully.

We sat in a restaurant and conversed about other things, but eventually the point of the evening was reached where we shared our philosophies about sexuality. God gave me such poise and such confidence and such clarity, I was amazed. I said, “Look, I believe that every person on this planet needs sexual healing. There are few examples, if any, of the way God meant sexuality to be expressed and experienced when He created us.

“It says in the Bible that marriage between a man and a woman is supposed to represent God’s love for His people Israel, and Christ’s commitment to the Church. He loved the Church so much that He laid down His Godness, His very life, for her. And that’s the kind of love a husband is supposed to show his wife. And a wife is supposed to respond to that love with trust, respect, faithfulness and complete intimacy. You know as well as I do that sexuality has been twisted in every kind of way to destroy that picture.

“See, we are supposed to present a picture, an embodied representation, of this spiritual reality in marriage. That’s the only reason I can see for celibacy before marriage, for faithfulness in marriage, for restraint of our natural passions. If we didn’t have this standard to go by, why not do whatever we please? Whatever “comes naturally”? But the Bible indicates that all other forms of sexual expression or union are less than what God intended.”

I was shaky when it was over, but I knew God had been with me and I knew I had done what I came to do. Danny and Doug both knew that I cared about them, that I was not a raving Bible-banging rejecter of gays, and yet that I was holding my ground on the issue of the right and wrong of homosexuality.

I sat in the car in the dark, and the Lord ministered His comfort to my spirit as I sang my favorite hymn to Him, and cried.

Green pastures are before me which yet I have not seen
Bright skies will soon be o’er me where the dark clouds have been
My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free
My Savior has my treasure, and He will walk with me

When I got back to Nashville, I read a book called Rees Howell, Intercessor. It freaked me out, because this Welsh guy, Rees Howell, had such an intense, private and demanding relationship with God. It caused him to do weird things, things people didn’t understand, and it cost him a lot in terms of having a normal life. But I felt strongly, and I couldn’t avoid it, that God was calling me to pray for Danny as an intercessor. Sure, I had prayed all my life, but I had never attempted long-term sustained prayer for anything in particular, and I had never made a disciplined practice of daily prayer. It was always just natural responses to whatever was going on in my life, but there was never any regularity or discipline to it. Now it felt like God was enlisting me as a soldier in a war.

So I began. I prayed each night for Danny, for Doug, for their healing, their salvation, their enlightenment, their rescue from what I saw as part of a terrible plot of the enemy to destroy God’s image in the men of my day. In my journal, I wrote, “I pray for Daniel: your angel guard, the conviction of your Holy Spirit, the awareness of your love, your truth, your righteousness.” At some point, I asked God, “But how long do you expect me to pray? I’ve never done this before. I need a time limit so I can dare to bear this burden.”

I heard “Six months.”

A couple of weeks later, I was reading Eberhard Bethge’s biography of Dietrich Bonhöffer. I found it did my heart and head good to read about someone with such a disciplined, orderly, logical and intentional life as Uncle Dietrich. He had already become my hero, but now my appreciation for him had increased greatly. He lived his faithful, world-changing life in a prison cell, writing, praying, reading, witnessing of God’s faithfulness to other prisoners, and to his guards. I needed such a hero, with the warfare I was called to undertake.

He wrote, in his Letters and Papers from Prison, something that expressed my heart so well, and challenged me at the same time: “The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves. We must take care not to wallow in our memories or hand ourselves over to them…[but keep them] simply as a hidden treasure which is ours for certain. In this way the past gives us lasting joy and strength. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep, we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in His hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf.”
In February I got word that Danny would be living alone. I praised God for what looked to be an encouraging sign of movement in the right direction. A few days later, I was invited to go to SingSong in Abilene. I would get to see Marilyn, and Janice and her new husband, Gary, and experience this annual tradition of SingSong that all the Abilene people living in Nashville loved so much. I prayed and asked the Lord if it was His will for me to go, and flipped open the Bible to see if He would speak something to me from scripture. I am not lying but telling the truth when I say that my finger fell upon the word “Abilene” when I opened my Bible. I didn’t even know the word was in the Bible! (I’m sorry, I can’t help it – that’s really what happened.) So I went. Here’s what I wrote in my journal.

“I rode to Abilene with my cousin Pam and her friends (from the Vultee Church of Christ where her family attended). We ran into Janice and Marilyn at the Student Center of the University. They saw some guy they knew in passing and hollered, “Eulen! You’re so ugly!” Old times to the nth. Sweet conversation, aesthetic supper together, and the second half of SingSong. Such power in tradition. The Lord Bless You and Keep You sung by thousands of voices. I slept on the floor at Janice and Gary’s apartment.

“Highland to church, icy Sunday morning, Lynn Anderson spoke on prayer, of all things. Lunch at John Allen Chalk’s, the culmination of one of those ancient desires. Rich fellowship, but of the Seminar variety. (He was a leader, you’ll recall, in Campus Evangelism Seminars.) Along with Marita Mann (a Lubbock girl I had become friends with in Nashville) comes Mary Anne Whitten to the Baucum apartment. Amazement. Amazement deepens as discovery is made that space will be available for ride home with Mary Anne, and, of all people, Fred Walker. ( I had developed a crush on Fred, a guy unlike any I had met before, very open about his walk with the Lord.) We are overwhelmed.

“At Highland that night, prayers to get with Pam group, Fred and Ed Cannon are answered, in that order. Taco Bueno with some Spanish speakers, delightful though a tad strange to be reunited with Ed (from Pepperdine days). We arrive at a devotional/Bible study where we know no one. We therefore remove ourselves to one corner and talk. Later on, heavy moving of God’s Spirit. Blessed prayer by Ed. Nolen Hughey, Tim Mason, Brian greatly appreciated. Spiritual contact made with Steve, who needs prayer. Night spent with Mary Anne, Marita, Mrs. Mann.

“Embarking at 6:30 a.m. upon an adventure in the Spirit. Eighteen hours of glory. Only moments of disharmony were inside me – forgive me, Lord, for seeking my own. Beginning in I Peter, we cross reference and study and never finish I Peter. Much deep, sweet prayer, singing after dark. Fred and Clark (Collins) talk of dying to self, marriage in the Lord, walking by faith. We shared a time in God’s pavilion, the Secret Place. Inexpressible, real, deep beauty. Praise God for His mighty acts.”

Yes, that’s a snapshot of how I talked and thought as a result of living six short months in Nashville, Tennessee. I was writing in February, 1975.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I really didn’t understand what was happening in Danny’s heart, the battle he was facing all alone, in his self-imposed isolation. I would understand it somewhat better later that year. I wrote down some things he said that summer that became much clearer later on. This conversation took place the same day I had written to Mike, July 24, 1974.

“Last night
I was sitting in my chair watching TV
and all of a sudden
I found myself [hands uplifted]
you know,
praising God.
So I did that for awhile…
a long time…
and then I watched TV some more
and then I was freaking on the
moon outside my window
and then the Lord spoke to me

then the Lord

spoke to me
and He said, “I’ve given you the gift
of believing in…Jesus…
and you can’t get away from that—

and then people say you have to
do it on your own, you know, so
I tried it and then
I tried to do it on your own
and it didn’t work and then
He said, “That’s all right,
because you’ve got the one thing
but the one thing’s


I mean it’s everything.”

I wrote something the next week that sounds a lot more sexual than it has any right to. Don’t misunderstand as you read it. None of the unspoken rules had changed in the four years Danny and I spent both together and not together. He never “got past second base” and he had never tried to. I think the intimacy of the poem is a reflection of what I was feeling, not what was actually happening between us in reality. But who knows? This was written on July 30, 1974.

The Night on the Beach

Walking across the sand
I hurried on towards the foam,
and let it wash my feet
and purify my heart.
Then we sat together, and a distance apart.
We listened to the surf, and you noticed
that it roared its approach, then passed us by
again and again, gentle rhythm.
We spoke, we sang
“This is my Father’s world”
and gloried in the night,
Swirls of smoke, dark Sangria.
Then you reached out and caught the warm
brown wool around my shoulders
and drew me to you.
“That was perfect,” you said, and meant more.
You caressed the person by your side
and slowly, and suddenly
in each other’s arms, we loved the world
and each other.
Our hands and mouths knew ourselves
and told us so,
resting on bony reality, learning depth,
pure and distant.
It was not time, but the moment was full.
From unsullied sweetness you led me on
into childlike fantasy, and magical words
crowned the dream, that we are, and that we shall be.
Clinging to this dream,
I hesitate to record it,
to give wordy form to feelings.
To capture is to kill,
or at the least, to cause detail
and universal beauty
to be excluded, forgotten.
But the dream was real.
It happened, and, happening,
bound together so many times –
moments of caring, sharing –
and made of them
something firm
and clear.

Here are Marilyn, me and Sara and our moms at my birthday lunch, August 5, 1974.

When Danny graduated, we knew that we were not getting married any time soon. The summer together had proved inconclusive. We agreed that he would go to Pepperdine’s law school in Orange County, and I would go to Peabody in Nashville to get a Master’s in Library Science. I needed a job, since I wasn’t going to have a husband right away to support me. (Below, Danny Blair saying goodbye.)

I had never made a plan for my future as an independent (read “financially responsible”) woman, because a lot of women just didn’t think like that back then, and I was one of those. Also, I had lived since the age of five with college as my goal and, oddly enough, I simply had no plans for myself “after college”. I did a little research and discovered that Peabody was one of the few schools in the country offering a one-year Master’s degree, at the time I thought I didn’t want to invest two years in a Master’s, and why not become a librarian? It was all I knew.

One part of the decision making process was the fact that I had despised Nashville for many years as a provincial, prejudiced, racist, materialistic place. I had judged and despised my relatives for the same reasons. Now I felt that God was telling me I needed to forgive them for being different from the way I thought they should be, and give them another chance. Later on, when I explained my reason for moving to Nashville, people would ask, “So, how did it go with the relatives?” “Not so great,” I would respond, “but it turned out that I loved Nashville!”


So now comes the chapter of my life I referred to at the beginning of this tale. I packed the yellow Camaro with all my worldly goods, and Stephen Bennett and I drove off to attend a wedding in Lubbock, Texas, on my way to Nashville. James Taylor had become a favorite ever since his first album came out a few years before, and now his Walking Man provided part of the soundtrack for this adventure. How could this lyric any more perfectly describe what was happening to me now?

Distant hands in foreign lands are turning hidden wheels
Causing things to come about which no one seems to feel
All invisible from where we stand, the connections come to pass
And no two strings can comprehend, they affect us nonetheless, yes

Once again, a time of change, though the change makes music
And the children will dance
See the pieces of the picture rearrange themselves
It seems just like a symphony to me, with nothing left to chance

Just look over your shoulder, it’s out of your hands, it’s over for now
Leave behind what you can, you can always return
The ribbon remains unbroken, unspoken, but loud and clear
It’s a slow vibration migration

Hey mystery muse, how I hunger for an answer
Unsung song, how I long to play your changes
Hidden rhythm, haven’t I always been your dancer?
Sing praise, sing praise for the meaning to my dreaming migration

After the DiNapoli/Boverie wedding, I drove by myself through the night, from Lubbock, Texas all the way to Nashville, Tennessee. It took me seventeen hours, which I found out later was rather short. That record speed could perhaps be explained by the number of times I hit 80 mph. I even passed eighteen-wheelers in heavy rain, just closing my eyes and praying, as they splashed me so hard I couldn’t have seen anything anyhow.

I finally found Cherokee Avenue, after passing it several times. I didn’t know that Broadway would turn into West End which would turn into Harding Road, so I kept having trouble figuring out the map in my desperately weary state. I finally pulled up in front of the house I would be sharing with Duane and Carol Doidge, embarrassed that they would smell the smoky car, and started hauling my stuff upstairs to my room. My relatives had already installed a bed, a chest of drawers, a rocker and my Granddaddy Whitesell’s old roll-top desk in my room before I arrived, and I was touched and amazed by that generous effort at caretaking. Note the printer’s drawer which became a little treasure chest for memories – I carried that back on the plane from Zurich, my last purchase in Europe in the summer of ’73.

It was a great house. How I wish we had more foresight, and we could have bought it when it was selling for $18,000 instead of the $150,000 it would be today. It was brick, with a side porch, two stories and an attic above that, hardwood floors, a fireplace, just blocks from Belle Meade, the old money section of town. But who knew I would still be living in Nashville thirty years later, with two years away in other cities but always, eventually, returning here?

Big surprise! I found out that Naomi Harper had decided to move to Nashville. She had become best friends with a Tennessee girl named Elaine Davidson while they worked together at Camp Shiloh that summer. Elaine was from Shelbyville, the Walking Horse Capital of the World, but she was living in Nashville and working as a med tech. She persuaded Naomi to move to Nashville and be her housemate, with two other girls, Beckie and Martha. So we started our fifth year of friendship, tentatively, on this new ground. One night as I lay awake in bed, I got a hankering to get up and write about what I was feeling.

Reminiscing About Europe, circa Summer 1972

Lying under my quilt at midnight
one star blinking through a windowpane
I’ve heard the train passing by,
as it moves less precious baggage
through this town than trains
have been known to carry
We used to walk down paths to the station
wondering where dawn would find us
never certain of a destination
always sure of an adventure to come.
The rocking movement of the cars
on the tracks was adventure enough
sometimes, and rivers and farms
out the window were special gifts
A white cat on a rooftop,
old women leaning from railings,
stacks of hay, cultivated gardens
spoke of a tranquil life of work
and simple pleasures foreign to me.
Those days, when to sniff the breeze
and touch the earth and name the feeling
was all my task,
when friends and I would share
wine and crusty bread, art and music,
walk and talk and rest and joy,
a gift of time from God.
Now I remember: nights by southern beaches,
rain coming down through forests of trees,
bells ringing across the river,
crowds of jabbering strangers,
and quiet, misted afternoons by lakes.
A feeling comes to me,
flows from deep within,
and a wrenching, sweet aching
without a name
calls me back to a time of richness
and a time of pain.
I remember, and it happens again,
and I am grateful for those days.
They taught me that the world is full –
a feast without measure – of good gifts
from the Father, who is all
in all.

Another Surprise Visit

I was about a month into library school, and we decided to take a road trip. As I explained in a journal, “Naomi, Elaine and I journeyed to New York to see beloved people, cradled in the Lord’s arms. The first part of our trip was an adventure, especially for me. The car broke, and it was raining, 2:00 a.m. Along came an old truck driver (answering Elaine’s simple prayer) who needed someone to hug. I went along with him and a hitchhiker from Texarkana to a town twenty miles up the road. He found me a sheriff who found me a tow-trucker who fixed our car. Fine Virginia accents, four men’s lives and an important experience with the Lord’s love.

“New York was gray and broken down, like my last memories of Paris. Someone liked my leaning out of that Brooklyn window and shouted up to say so. Except for a few minutes when men down below were messing with some cars, the night was a comfort. Becky Reynolds was an angel.
“Next morning, I was pulling into New Haven. Maybe it’s colored by a particular inhabitant, but my feeling about the town is special. A dream and a prayer, that I’ll be there again. I found his street, remembering Christmas and wondering how it would be.
“Knocking on his door, in the dark, listening for footsteps –that startling old face, surprised for a minute, then just slightly smiling. We talked awhile, he took a bath, we decided on a church and drove there. Europe feeling, dark and cool and stained glass, the oldest church in New Haven. A visiting Scotch cleric preached on the Seven Last Words. (William Sloane Coffin is the Chaplain there.) A great choir and organ. So nice to pray with my friend, to sing “The Church’s One Foundation”. Then we ate, played, talked. Such a blessing. So hard to leave.” Here follow quotes from Mike Johnston, thanks to my good old list-making, moment-capturing, journaling compulsions. It's a one-sided conversation this time, as I didn't write down my half.

You want to go to church?
Sydney in church. What a kick. (Sydney Ahlstrom was Mike’s major professor.)
That would be a dandy Christmas even for somebody who didn’t know those people. I guess it would be for you.
One difference between you and me is that I don’t mind McDonalds. Maybe I don’t have an inner self.
It seems like there’s things we haven’t said. I mean, you just walked in and all of a sudden I was showing you the paper and we were picking a church. We hardly said hello.
Let’s go make some music.
When I get disgusted with Joni Mitchell and Shakespeare it’s because they’re barking up the wrong trees. Of course I say that because I’m not romantically in love with anybody right now.
I didn’t intend to suggest there was one specific dog…
Have you seen Harold and Maude? It’s the same reaction I have to Salinger – fifteen minutes later I say, “Wait a minute…”
I feel this…calling. It’s very Puritanical.
They don’t need to hear that!
Have I told you about Albert Schweitzer?
Surely anybody who’s studied church history doesn’t believe that.
My poor dad and my poor guitar sure get beat up in these arguments.
I used to tell Virginia about my lists and she’d preach flexibility.
What about this Holy Spirit business?
So what if you had kids? It’s so illusive, how do you teach them?
All to Jesus I Surrender
You’re not enough like the Sermon on the Mount. Perfection.
(Mike told me he came to our choral performance of the oratorio St. Paul on both nights.) Don’t you remember me? I was in the back near the middle.
I’ve been talking to people around here and they say a marriage really suffers in graduate school.
Royce said once that by the time we were fifty we’d all have a set of opinions we were sure of and wouldn’t consider changing. I swore that would never be true for me. I hope it isn’t.
This is almost too perfect…I have a grandfather like that, really sharp, around eighty…
(We discussed our reading: Lindbeck; Pelikan; Stringfellow)
I’ve never criticized your mother…
Yes? — Gwen? — That’s an intelligent question.
I repeat – there’s a lot to be said for majoring in religion.
This will entertain you. You were sitting behind me this one day because you made this squeal – or was it a squeak – anyhow, this little note came out because you were excited about something, and I thought, “You even sound good when you squeak.” I thought I’d tell you but I never did.
Who’s that couple in L.A.? (Chuck and ‘Nell)
There’s those birds…like Elaine and John.
Maybe calling someone nice isn’t always a compliment. (Responding to my comment that I’d like to become someone people would call a “nice” girl, as his friends George and Jerry described someone to me, driving around in a car one night.)
Sing me a song from Elaine’s wedding. (Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song” and “Where are you going?” from Godspell; then Joni Mitchell’s “Priest Song,” Jackson Browne’s “These Days,” and Joni’s “I Think I Understand”)
I liked that song before I understood the words, and even then they weren’t a disappointment.
Let’s not worry about it. No need to break your neck…
We seem to spend all our time sitting in one room. Of course, that’s how I spend my days. We did go to church…It was a good vacation for me.
“And the wife, she holds the keys.” (Quoting a Joni Mitchell lyric)
I’ll let you know.
Nobody around here speaks the same language. George and I do, but we don’t always agree…
I feel about the same.