The Perfect Couch

I’ve searched for the perfect couch for a large portion of my adult life. I maintain a steady presence on the internet marketplaces and frequent the thrift shops scattered across the three states we travel the most. My couch karma is pathetic. Once, I broke my vow to only buy used items and bought a new one. That didn’t work out either.

Over the years, God has cheerfully sat on each of them except for the small sectional coated with multiple layers of nearly invisible cat hair. That one didn’t even make it into the living room. Too bad. It would have matched the nostalgic recliner I’m usually sitting in this time of day. If any cat people are interested, the sectional is piled in the barn. Blue geometric design. Can’t miss it.

“You’re funny,” God says, lowering himself into the sagging cushions of my most recent attempt.

“I know,” I reply, proud but sad. My mom would have turned eighty-nine today. I didn’t engage in any “Happy Birthday in Heaven” posts, but I’ve sent my regards to wherever the essence of mothers goes.

Generally, my mom did not like secondhand furniture, but she loved this little recliner that last year because she could put the footrest up and down on her own. Limits and needs humiliated her. She would have starved rather than ask someone to cut up her meat. I can relate.

It is one of life’s ironies that if we live long enough, we come to understand the disappointments, fears, and irritating quirks of our elders from the inside out.

“No, no. That’s not irony,” God says. “That’s mercy.”

“I don’t think so,” I say. “It feels vindictive. It makes me wish I’d been nicer and tried harder to understand.”

“No amount of niceness takes mortality away. You were nice enough.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Trust me,” God says, “You were nice enough.” Then he adds, “Say, I didn’t sleep well last night. Mind if I take a little rest?”

He yawns, snaps the wobbly footrest up, settles back, and is soon snoring peacefully. I watch his chest rise and fall while George Winston plays melancholy piano in the background. Such short lives. Such very short lives.

I guess maybe it is mercy, I think. Better to understand later than never. A rush of adoration washes over me. I lower my own footrest quietly to tuck a turquoise blanket around the vast arthritic feet of my friend, the patient creator, the weary one, snoozing on my latest bad couch.


God is a dizzy dame who throws her head back and laughs from her gut. Droplets of saliva sparkle in the air. No politely covered mouth for this One. She’s extravagant, repulsive, and contagious. Early in life, I came down with a bad case of God, and it permanently deformed my worldview. To stay balanced, I learned to compensate.

But now, the crystals in my inner ear randomly come untethered and reality spins like a rolodex. I no longer trust any surface or deity presenting itself as stable or defined.

“Remember that coiled rattler under the burdock?” God chuckles as she guzzles Hutterite rhubarb wine. “That was me!” She’s drunk and proud and dancing.

“I’ve never doubted that,” I say, sober and serious.

“And remember how I taught you to breathe?”

I shake my head. God takes credit where credit may not be due. But who am I to question the Source? To protest the inconsistencies, incoherence, and impossible dialectics? The Sophie’s choices and failed states?

God clicks her castanets, sways her hips, and stomps her high-heeled feet. “Yes!” she exclaims. “That’s the question. Who are you?”

The frenzied beat moves her past the limits. The sky gathers force, and hailstones strip her naked. She throws her head back again, her joy maniacal, her hair, a den of vipers, awakened and writhing.

I am unfazed. Bemused. I’ve seen it all before.

“No,” I say calmly. “The question is who are YOU?”

The scene shifts. God is Tevye, singing as if I were Golda.

“But do you love me?” His voice is gravelly. Vulnerable.

“Do I have a choice?” I ask.

“Do you have a telescope? Or microscope? Can you alter DNA? Of course, you can. But if you plant carrot seeds, do you harvest corn?”

I settle in for a long ramble of nonsensical obfuscations, but God chucks me on the chin and becomes Dr. Seuss, reading from his book Oh, the places you’ll go. “You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Despite my instabilities, I know this is true.

“I have no sheep, but there are eight chickens, two pigs, a tiny slice of land, and some hateful, deluded neighbors to care for. Will that suffice?”

“Yes!” Dr. Seuss says. “Oh, love what you love and then love some more. Love so much that your muscles get sore…”

“Shazam. Poof. Be gone!” I wave God away with a smile. “I’ve got work to do.” God winks and squeezes back into that slinky gown. “Me, too,” she says with a toothy grin. “See you around.”

Hog Heaven

From my bank of unblinking windows I watch the ways of old trees dying. None are a direct threat, so I keep a respectful distance and consider rootedness and wind, drought and disease, and the sustenance dead trees leave for future generations.

Like trees, we exist fleetingly between flood and fire, partaking of a generous past, discovering our relevance even as we decay. I have been reborn many times, birth canals shaping the way things look when I reemerge. This morning’s reemergence is solemn. I am grateful for the stillness.

But my revery is interrupted by two pigs noisily reminding me it’s breakfast time. Obviously, their pen is too close to the window. These exuberant uprooters are stinkers in every sense of the word. I try to limit my fondness, but the way they make eye contact is most endearing. I see interest. Recognition. Maybe even primitive affection. I also see the truth. They are omnivores. If I were down and broken, they would eat me. And I’m sure somewhere in their active little brains, they are aware that I am a predator, and they are worthy prey.

“And thus you could break and eat them,” God says, finishing my thought.

“Eat or be eaten, eh?” I say, scattering soaked corn for the dramatically ravenous pair.

“Almost. But actually, it’s eat and be eaten,” God says. “That’s the plan. A good one, if I do say so myself.”

This is not a new conversation. I wrinkle my nose as images of mold, fungi, maggots, and other faithful workers of creation come to mind. I am an integral part of an inclusive, circular, cleansing, evolving, expanding universe. Pigs, chickens, cattle, yaks, grasses, trees, seeds, whales, mules, plankton, cabbage, caviar. Apples, melons, hybrids, bones, stones, erosion, uprisings, down-fallings. I sigh and look at my hands.

“So, God, what do you eat?”

God laughs. “Oh, I nibble on almost anything. I’m not picky. And before you ask, let me add that I am also eaten.”

I resist this idea, but then I realize I’ve always known the divine and sacrificial taste of God.

“You’re welcome.” God says, dissipating into the blue tangibilities of a day that has arrived unscathed.

There are orange chunks of squash in the trough—the final remains of last year’s garden. I sweeten the deal with an outdated protein drink we bought for a friend with cancer. The pigs are in hog heaven. I’m jealous of their uncomplicated joy.


To begin my morning wrestling match, I typed the word gone and then backspaced it out of existence and then typed it again. It sits on my screen, a fragile, arrogant four-letter word with its dukes up, ready to go a round or two with denial. But here’s the truth:  I can make it disappear and reappear the rest of the day if I’m so inclined.  I am more or less in command of my words. This is comforting. Sobering.

Spoken or recorded, words can linger beyond the speaker or the author. We fawn over first words. Cherish the last. The words in between muddle along, hurting, encouraging, freeing, frightening, disguising, delighting, warning, elucidating, lying, and shaping whatever they touch.

“Hello,” God says. “What have we here?”

“Me, muddling,” I say. “Thanks for interrupting. It was getting weird in my head.”

Gone can do that,” God says. “Try go or going instead. More energized and hopeful. For now, that’s probably better for you.”

“Don’t pamper me.”.

God looks surprised. “Why not?”

“I want to be tough enough to handle it on my own.”

“Handle what?”

“You know. Goneness. Endings. Closures. Failures.”

“Oh good grief.” God digs his fingers into my shoulders. “Listen.”

I listen.

The rumble of a gravel truck. The neighbor’s choice of music. Birds singing. Fire crackling. Familiar sounds.

“Good,” God says. “Can you bring any of that back and hear it over?”

“Well,” I say with a grin. “That truck won’t make those exact sounds again, but I think Pandora is on replay next door.”

This cracks God up. “Ha ha! Pandora. Good one. So you think your playlists will save you?”

I look at God like he’s lost his mind. I shake my head and try to turn my back which is silly. There is no back.

“And there is no gone,” God says gently. “There’s nothing but Now. Type that.”

“I just did.”

“Good. What you think is solid, what you think is redundant, what you think will last, it’s all just Now.

“But wouldn’t it be great if words could pass through into forever?”

“Actually, there’s one word that does that,” God says.

“I suppose you mean Now,” I say.

“Nope,” God says. “It’s my favorite name—quite difficult to translate. In your native tongue, the closest you’ve got is love.”

I dig my fingers into God’s shoulders and in my most serious, sad voice, I say, “God, love is what makes gone so painful.”

“I’m fully aware of that,” God says, equally sad and serious. “But the alternatives are worse.”

Slightly Altered States

“Imagine me as a sensory deprivation tank,” God says.

I shiver. “Too claustrophobic. How about I imagine you as a cosmic county fair?”

“Hmmm,” God says. “Methinks you wouldn’t like that either.”

“Yeah. But if we’re talking extremes, I’d rather experience you as over-stimulated children and deep-fried cheese on a stick than the arctic chill of nothingness.”

God shrugs and mutters, “Massive.”

“Excuse me?”

“So much suffering. So much to clean up.” God sounds irritated.

“Wait a minute. You can embody any metaphor, idea, symbol, or myth, and you’re worried about a little housekeeping? You can be nothing and everything, whereas I’ve only got me.”

“Have you seen the satellite debris around your planet?” God’s voice implies this is my fault. “And do you know how many of my beloved are unsheltered right now?”

I bow my head in prayer, hoping the holy Non Sequitur will leave me alone. I wish I could hire someone to give my life an extra lick of meaning.

“What’s your hourly rate?” I ask the One who will not go away.

“Winner takes all,” God answers.

I sigh. Humans do not appear to be winning. There is little doubt the great collapse is coming. The heavenly workforce has thinned, and the eyes of this galaxy are closing. God has woven a casket of willow saplings for the salty residue of existential misery. I should be more grateful. More sympathetic. But I’m resentful

“I don’t even have me, do I?” It isn’t a question. It’s a resigned acknowledgment.

“That depends,” God says. “I’m always willing to share.”

“Why?” I ask. “Obviously, you don’t have to.”

“Well, expansion is my roller coaster. Unconditional love is my triple-shot latte, and forgiveness, my full-body workout.” God sounds momentarily energized. “But of course, I get lonely sometimes.”

“Aw,” I say. I throw my arm over the shoulder of this stubborn lunkhead of impossibilities. “Let’s go for a nature walk.”

The Lonely Lunkhead nods and a terrifying, tangled wilderness appears. Why didn’t I suggest golf and whiskey? Happy hour. Something numbing and contrived. A nice, slightly altered state.

Lunkhead laughs. “You’re always slightly altered.”

Being known that well makes me less afraid. I smile and things lighten up.

“Shall we bring the casket along?” I ask. “I noticed it has wheels. And plenty of room for a cooler and a six-pack.”