– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

Red Bird

Red bird
in the palm of my hand—
Who cannot sing the strains of love
stirring trapped inside your beak.

Drop a feather instead—
In the fullness that can’t be expressed,
the only thing left
is to fly.

So good-bye, red bird—
May you carry the kiss of my quiet soul
on the northerly wind.

Speak Simply

Open the book to the page of wisdom and count the words. Are they many or few? What else can you say of them? Are they noisy, full of air? Or trim, compact, containing just the meaning they intend to deliver—nothing more nor less?

You can see that, in the ways of the wise, less is often more. This is because we spend too much time imagining that things are important when they are not, and in the process we obfuscate the things of real value in our lives and in our conversations.

It is a relief to pare down unnecessary words. When you speak more simply, you travel with a lighter sack and you get the chance to communicate the essence of the ideas on your mind and in your heart. When you talk too much, you get carried away by the sound of things, and forget the sense. It is an excusable fault, but it weighs you down and, after a while, tires you out.

The solution is simple:

When obliged to speak your mind, use the words that come first to your heart. If you pay more attention to the center of things (that is, the heart, rather than the mind), you will find yourself speaking with a new authority. Not a haughty one, or unapproachable; neither of these is what we are after. Instead, you will speak with the authority of one who says (or tries to say) only what she judges to be real and true, and your words will feel more solid, more precise. After a while, you will notice that you have come closer to describing your thoughts than when you used twice the number of words to get you there.

In the end, we all have our characteristic styles and rhythms. It is not for everyone to take the austerest path. Goodness forbid! Your manner of expression must be consistent with who you are! But there is always a little room for us to be quieter and to discover the riches that are waiting for us between the commas and—–gasps of air.


A slow, pretty cover of the George Michael song.

The unfed mind devours itself.

Gore Vidal

The Relief of Not Having to Explain Yourself

Harvard Law School, NW Corner Building, WCC

So many things on the mind, so many questions to express, but always the difficulty in pouring out the thoughts in a satisfactory way.

One thing that makes me happy about God is that He already knows everything that happens in my life, down to the minutest of details, and including the thousands of little thoughts and inclinations that dash all around my mind and heart. What I mean is that it’s a relief not to have to explain to Him the reasons I think such-and-such, or to muddle through the work of describing a particular habit (or thought, or question, or desire) that perplexes or confuses or troubles me. In life, with other people, I often find it to be just too much work to explain something in the way I want to explain it—because it becomes a near-impossible task, trying to outline every nuance that will unambiguously illuminate the thing I’m trying to get at in the mind of the person I’m talking to (especially if the thing is important to me). The result is that, many times, I just avoid the topic altogether, and allow it to keep floating on in the private cavities of my thoughts. You see, even now I’m encountering the problem I speak of—because here I am, trying to articulate this property of God that makes me so happy, and I feel I’m not really expressing the idea well at all. Ah, but the effort is valiant in itself, no? Anyway, I guess what it boils down to is that it’s simply a relief to be known so entirely, so completely and thoroughly, by another Person, and to know that the intentions of your heart are understood, even amid the clutter of innumerable words, behaviors, gestures, and thoughts that would lead anyone else astray. This applies both when the hidden phenomena are good, and when they’re bad. (Because, indeed, there can be great freedom in letting your imperfections be disclosed, without buffer or polish or half-knowledge, to someone else.) And then, of course, there’s the beautiful fact that none of this—none of the tortuous confusions or stubborn bad habits—manages to surprise God; nor do these things ever provoke Him into accepting you even a little bit less. His calm acceptance of you gives you the steadiness and courage to, in turn, be calm and accepting with yourself. And if that’s not relief, I don’t know what is.

P.S. I wrote this entry while sitting in the student commons (just off the dining hall) of the Harvard Law School. I’m not a law student, but the building is nice and the food is good! See photo of fancy reading room, above (credit).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a little bolder, a little sillier, a little wiser. To entertain these desires doesn’t require that you sacrifice your goal of self-acceptance. People often make the mistake of thinking that allowing someone the freedom to be himself means precluding all expectations of growth or change. But this isn’t really the case. Because in the long run, change is inevitable—so why not wish for a change in the direction of a fuller, more fulfilling life? It’s OK to wish for the attainment of things which you don’t yet have, while keeping in mind that the reason you seek them is not to become a different person, but only to become the happier and more fully alive version of yourself. Is it not so?

Welcome to the Hatter House, where all the heads are hatted with hats and all the hats are headed with heads. The dues for membership will be waived in due time, as it were. We see you haven’t got much change to spare so our crowd will make it as easy on you as we can.

Two Peonies

This is an old poem, but I’m experimenting with using video as a means to occasionally record and deliver poetry. Ignore the fancy promotional bit at the end; I just quickly imported my video to one of the first free online video editors I could find, and the result was some extra advertising graphics I don’t exactly want. Suggestions welcome 🙂


Two peonies are blooming under the sky,
But I am too sick with nerves to come by
And loiter with them and ask their pardon
For looking so pale inside their garden:
They would wince, close, lose their beauty, dry;
They would drop their petals, sullen, and sigh:
Goodbye, good child, good-bye, good bye.

Which is the way to the castle?

Which is the way to the castle?
By the river or through the wold?
How shall I find the master gate
In this winter, shivering cold?

The time, I fear, is running short;
The daylight is growing weak.
Make haste I must if I should hope
To find that strangeling thing I seek.

But how, good sir, I fain thee ask,
Wouldst not thou go the way with me?
Too late, too long, too chill the walk
Without a friend for company.

The Fire Was Lit / Weight


A couple of poems written in my journal while working at the movie theater yesterday evening.

The fire was lit
Before I knew
The dangerous dance
Of hanging up the habits
Of a tenderer time
And falling, head-first,
Into a world
Of decadent, impossible love.

But then,
You see,
The first among us
Are hardly last
And if you ask me
How to find the way to Paradise–
Well, what do I know
Of such things,
Except that a penny can’t get you there–
Neither in spring, nor in snow?

Tiredness, a weight around your neck that keeps you from sleep when all you wish for is sleep– for the reprieve of disappearance into a moment of non-being, a pause of responsibility in a living, breathing world.

The weight is heavy, yes, but you’ve forgotten what it is to be light, and soon you’ll have forgotten the rest– the smells, the sounds of happiness– since the world moves on when you’re still standing in the spot you couldn’t figure out how to leave behind.

The blast of a carrier wind brings you to a gentler place– quiet and kind. There, the people smile with whitewashed teeth and a pleasant look, but there is no hand to touch your arm, no mouth to tell you that it’s all right.

Yet the fact of being lonely is only a state of mind, a habit worn like an old fur coat, too cumbersome to remove when the air around you is still a bit chill.

Can you forget the words? It turns out, you can– you’ve forgotten the feelings, too. For in the mess of an unplumbed mind– the clutter of a hurting heart– everything gets remembered and forgotten all at once, so that the truth of any given thought swings in the uncertain balance of imperfect recollection.

But have I come close to describing the thud of losing hope, the thousand pieces of self that abandon themselves like vagrants when your simple faith is proven wrong?

Millennia of poets have sung the songs of love,
but who has sung your sorrow,
who has written of your impossible weight?