Breathing With Both Lungs

meditations, photography, poetry, prayers

Lungs. A place of life and death and vulnerability…

Breathing With Both Lungs

I once heard it said
Our lungs are where we hold our grief.
When I inhale sharply, to remember
Why does it hurt to breathe?

Lament happened so long ago
Or has it been only a moment or so.

How fully has my memory constricted.
Can I locate the dull ache I long to forget.

Who’s counting? My breathing,
Your breathing, Our breathing. Exhale.

Is the level measured by exhales
Do our inhales even work anymore?

Can we fill our lungs with Presence
Or is it far too late for that now
Now that absence is all we know
Will it always hurt to breathe?

If I practice, will I remember how it was breathing with both lungs?

A few reflections:

This minuscule invader, the virus we are all shellshocked by, attacks the lungs severely.

The two people closest to me who I have lost, months and years ago, both succumbed in part to pneumonia.

My own lungs are the weakest part of me, bronchitis dozens of times as a child, often out of breath more easily than I’d like.

And this day of Good Friday, the crucifixion… this torture meant they die of asphyxiation. A horror many are living now.

Here we are, together in this great collective gasp. Anxiety is stealing our joy breath. Sadness saps our life breath. God whose breath once went out, You suffer with us and for us, and we suffer with each other. Teach us how to breathe again.

~ Janelle


meditations, photography, poetry, prayer

Throughout shadowed corners of churches crisscrossing Europe sit tiers and tires and trees of glowing candles. Icons of the voice of our longings, singing of our hope to recover what we’ve lost, to connect with beloved ones gone yet alive in our hearts.

Remembrance ~ Belgium, 1997

This image from my B&W film days calls to me every November, the month that has long been dedicated to remembrance of those separated from us for a time in this earthly life. The shorter days and the long shadows here in the North envelop me, bring me back around to the memory of my gentle father, each of my vibrant grandparents, my dear aunts and uncles – even ancestors, those who I have met only through the pages of history and yet feel connected to me.

Losing a parent, I would say, is the most surreal thing one can go through. Nothing can prepare you, and it remains forever a journey through uncharted wilderness.

I wrote this poem years ago for my boyfriend at the time, who had just lost his elderly father. For all those missing a parent, this is for you…

lament the separation
yet even more give thanks 
for his life, and for the gifts... 

life, love, faith.  

grieve with all your might, 
and may Mercy bring comfort to your heart.  

Thorns and Roses: a meditation on miracles + suffering

faith, poetry, the spiritual life

Daily I turn around and tragedy is before me, many far but some are near, twists and turns of events not my own and yet my own, reminding me that I am a colorful thread somewhere in the interwoven tapestry of this world. What hue is your thread? Quite sure mine is a deep burgundy, the color of wine and garnets, with a vein of shimmery metallic gold.

Poetry has always been my response to that which is intense and mysterious in my life. At this moment, I contend with the stress of a close friend who remains seriously chronically ill, and unimaginably heavy realities which have touched others around me. A musician friend recently asked me, do you believe in miracles? I didn’t know what to say… yes, yes I absolutely do ~ and yet, in the face of helplessness and hopelessness, what does this even mean?

By staying in this tension, with these twin weights of love and suffering… is this then the place of faith and of miracles? The mysterious realm of the heart, where heaven meets earth and the impossible is ever so possible?

Our brokenness meets our longing for wholeness as we receive the gaze of the compassionate One who is so intimately with us in our love and in our suffering. Perhaps my belief is that, more often than we realize, miracles happen via healing from the inside out.

From San Diego Art Museum

Madonna of the Roses, detail, 1485



life, delicate and fragile

gives way without warning

suffering weaves its coarse tapestry

a pattern of thorns and roses


foreheads to the earth

tease out our mirrored hope

as we stand on the promise

of miracles tenacious


begging receiving holding

the gaze of the compassionate One