Navigating Meaning in Unchartered Ways by Natalie Weaver

The ideas that here follow are an effort to organize insights from meditation practice over the past several months.  I submit them to FAR not because they are particularly profound or even well-developed but because I am, as everyone is, navigating meaning in unchartered ways during this epoch.  I find my old truths not only no longer fit; they were imposed, inherited, mind-binding patterns that have caused me damage from which I am ready to heal.  I have discovered that rigorous meditation practice is transforming my experience and understanding in ways that very closely align with the outcomes of feminist deconstruction of patriarchal value norms.  Renewed and serious application of this work, in my opinion, has never been more timely, more universally needed, or more psychically therapeutic. 


The teaching of impermanence discloses itself in what might be described imperfectly as both the foreground as well as the deep background of human experience.  It is imperfect to use the terms “foreground” and “background” because these words suggest a stacked-dimensional and binary experience in human life, which is, to say the least, inadequate.  I defer to these terms only for the purposes of suggesting different value experiences that the teaching of impermanence meets along the range of aspects of cognition and self-awareness.  Continue reading “Navigating Meaning in Unchartered Ways by Natalie Weaver”

On This Fourth of July by Natalie Weaver

I woke up this morning with a terrible itch in my mind.  I want to sue the government.  I’m not a lawyer, at least not yet, and I know that governments have sovereign immunity that typically prevents them from being sued.  But, it didn’t and doesn’t seem right that I feel so lied to and unprotected during this pandemic.  What is more, I know I am not deluded.  Either it is bad or it isn’t. Either it is spreading and lethal, or it isn’t.  Either precautions help, or they don’t.  It can’t be that ambiguous from a viral-behavioral perspective.  Government leadership refuses to speak or model a consistent, truthful, and accountable model for the social welfare, leading to such absurd reductions (in Ohio, for example) as that each individual school child can decide whether s/he wants to wear a face-covering this fall.  So, what gives?  Why all the half-, mixed, mis-, and disinformation?

Continue reading “On This Fourth of July by Natalie Weaver”

“Side of the Angels Statement” by Natalie Weaver

As a feminist, I have learned how important it is to limit the scope of my claims to a reasonable space, demarcated by some genuine historical or current investment, connection, or participation.  There are many things in this world about which I passingly feel or think something.  And, even if I think about something quite a bit, if I have nothing but opinion, even an informed one, I find it best to keep to myself.  I therefore tread lightly here.  Nevertheless, I do have some opinions born out of years of studying the relationship between Christianity and slavery, professional risk in dealing with these subjects, and my own different, but very real, history of abuse by which I analogically understand some measure of pain and exploitation.

I am dismayed by the overuse of written, right-side statements of position in times of crisis.  I really feel as though they serve to say something like, “Hey, Everyone, We, the __________  (Church, School, Charity, Business), are on the side of the angels.  We have the right attitude about this thing, and we’re putting it out there publicly so that everyone knows we’re legitimate.  Keep trusting us.” Continue reading ““Side of the Angels Statement” by Natalie Weaver”

Community Immunity by Natalie Weaver and Nathan

My eleven-year-old son, Nathan, a fifth grader, is doing his best to deal with changes the coronavirus pandemic has brought to his life.  Before this time, Nathan’s biggest daily worries have been keeping his school papers organized and staying on top of his sometimes rigorous homework assignments. Nathan has ADHD, which poses certain challenges to his learning and behaviors, making some tasks that have many intermediary steps nearly intolerable for him.  Nathan’s learning is complicated by the fact that, while it has always been apparent that his learning style was different, his teachers and family (including me) have not always had the skills or patience to see Nathan’s exceptional gifts and insights from Nathan’s own point of view.  

While his ADHD is a challenge, Nathan has a more ominous, lurking, daily concern.  Nathan has a life-threatening allergy that has made him keenly aware that every visit to a strange house, every meal at a restaurant, every bakery product, every school treat, every friend’s birthday party, and even touching a doorknob or library book could mean a painful and terrifying hospital experience. Since his allergy was first discovered, Nathan has been keenly aware of dust, germs, and particles.  He washes his hands to a fault, both as a result of ADHD compulsive behaviors and his deep awareness of his vulnerability to invisible, yet deadly particle foes.  Nathan’s allergies also give him extremely sensitive skin, predisposed to eczema, severe rashes, dryness, and splitting, so gloves, soaps, and sanitizers are at once necessities and risks to the largest organ in Nathan’s body. Continue reading “Community Immunity by Natalie Weaver and Nathan”

A Theological Conversation by Natalie Weaver and Valentine

My son asked me to discuss with him the theological problem of the dual natures, i.e., the divine and human natures, coexisting in the person of Jesus.  He asked me to begin by assuming the premises that 1) Jesus was a real, historical person and 2) that Jesus was both human and divine.  The question then became, “Did Jesus know he was God?”

Of course, as a theologian, I was delighted to have this conversation with my son.  It was fascinating to see how his mind worked, to hear him evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of high and low Christologies, to hear how he resolved the question himself, and to have an opportunity to share my own thoughts with a genuinely engaged, truly curious, and attentively listening dialogue partner in the person of my teenage son.  Not too shabby a victory for any parent!

As we talked, he continued to provide context for the question, which began as a classroom debate in his high school theology seminar.  Apparently, the students were tasked with taking some element from their in-class discussion, evaluating it, and then applying it practically by a twofold retrospective reflection in which the students were 1) to identify a specific situation in their life that could have gone better and 2) to share how their insight drawn from class would have made all the difference.  Now, my son expressed a bit of frustration with this assignment because he would have preferred to discuss how today’s insights might help him in the future, rather than to dwell in the past.  As his wheels turned, I left him alone to puzzle out his assignment, with the promise that I eagerly would return in an hour to see what he produced, accompanied by my own essay on the same task.

Continue reading “A Theological Conversation by Natalie Weaver and Valentine”

Fragments of Beauty by Natalie Weaver

Can I empathize with your feeling,
your interest in this?
Be sound, my heart that feels
the beat of yours as my own.
I would like to be human one day.

Let my prayer be not please,
for, I fear I have been
an ungrateful guest,
sojourning pilgrim, refugee.
All this life, all will be,
a lesson in how to say
thank you.

These sides are not sharp antagonisms
that bring to points their points of view
but a pond’s surface under moonlight,
swirling like mercury, beneath which minnows,
fluid, do their works of harmonious disruption.

a city made of music
a city made of dreams
a city made of gardens
a city on a stream

oh, frontier Romana
who passes through the east
this is where my heart was cast
and carried out to deep

Darling, do you know me
Darling, do you see?
this is where I want you
where I long to be

how I yearn to see you
ruddied by the cool
Why were not you by me
then? then before I knew

yet, I trusted have you
trusted I could seek
now and wish to strew my ash
across the Blackest Sea

here to be uncluttered
here un’cumbered flesh
here our single soul to spread
and all the rest dispersed

I have come to you across the distance of years
That you might be redeemed in me
And know covenant by the measure of my love
I will comb your hair and bathe your soul
I will anoint you with my blood
I will mold and fire and decorate
The world beneath your feet
And I will dance until it is done
And broken into sleep


Natalie Kertes Weaver, Chair and Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books includeMarriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013)Natalie’s most recent book is Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014).  Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin.  Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology.  Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan.  For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.

Welcome to the New Year by Natalie Weaver

Welcome to the New Year.

One year ago, on New Year’s eve, I buried my father’s ashes.  It was an incredible experience to orchestrate the funeral and burial of the man who begat me.  He was nowhere near a Hallmark greeting card kind of father.  He was complicated and difficult in ways both minor and severe.  Yet, this was the man I called “Dad,” and I was left to deal with the baggage of his life.  I cried in a way I had not cried before and felt a kind of sadness that, when given over to, seemed fathomless.  There is no real answer to grief like that.  I decided that one must just confront it or become it or traverse it.  And, there were things to do, practical things, such as repurposing clothes and rehoming cats, for which no one, I believe, could ever be totally prepared. I did not resent what I had to do; I just did it.  These things were hard for me.

Yet, despite the pain, something in that loss was deeply freeing.  There was no progenitor in the person of my father to come before me now, so there was suddenly no sense (however falsely constructed it may have been to begin with) that someone stood between me and whatever it is that was and is coming at me.  There is no longer even the false perception of a windbreaker, no frontline, no wise man, no one to shield, no guide.  There is just a naked sense of myself in the world, and though others surely came before me and stand around me now, on an existential level, I am not answering to him any longer.

Continue reading “Welcome to the New Year by Natalie Weaver”

In Dreams by Natalie Weaver

I am grateful for dreams.  I don’t know what they are, of course, in any absolute sort of way.  Defining dreaming is as elusive as dreams themselves.  Moreover, I find that understanding dreaming is complicated by the vastly variegated quality one finds in hearing people speak of their experiences of dreaming.  Some say things such as “I can never remember a dream,” while others say they only remember bad dreams.  Some place no stock in dreams at all, while for others they are the numinous truth realms beneath all waking phenomena.  I have spoken with hard-science minded colleagues as well as artists about dreams, who regardless of professional vocation can be utterly untouched by their nighttime journeying.  On just a few occasions have I ever heard people speak of their dreams as definitively shaping their lives in the way that my dreams, or more precisely, in the way that the faculty of dreaming, has impacted my life.

Continue reading “In Dreams by Natalie Weaver”

The Truth About Humans by Natalie Weaver

I have greatly enjoyed an odd little book I read over the summer.  It is Lucy Cooke’s The Truth About Animals (Basic Books, 2018). Cooke takes us through a journey of animal behavior, chronicling the curious narratives that naturalists, philosophers, theologians, and other high-thinking professionals impose on animals to render their behaviors meaningful, moral, and relevant.  Cooke shows us how tempting it has been historically for people to seek and discover confirmation of human values in all those other pairs so happily coupled on Noah’s Ark.

It has often been an important tool for feminists, as with other sets of thinkers, to make these connections as well.  And, as one familiar with the classical charges that women are more inherently corporeal than their spiritual-intellectual male counterparts, and that therefore women are more animal than the more accurately “human” form that their male counterparts represent, I understand the feminist investment in nature.  I appreciate that it involves a sort of ownership and redefinition of the slur; an acceptance of space and place as limited and essentially animal; an awareness of environmental sustainability; a deep sense of connection to the continuum of creaturely being that is the giant ecology of our planet.

Continue reading “The Truth About Humans by Natalie Weaver”

In Remembrance of Conrad Gromada by Natalie Weaver

I opened my email earlier today, July 2, and received news that my beloved, retired colleague, Conrad Gromada, passed away this morning.  My grief was and is giant.  I am here now flooded with memories of the nearly twenty years I had the pleasure of knowing and working with one of the world’s truest gentlemen.  It is appropriate that I take a moment here to acknowledge Dr. Gromada, that I extend my love and condolences to his wife, Annette Gromada, and that I tell this readership about the most pro-woman Catholic man I ever met.

Conrad Gromada worked at Ursuline College during the time I knew him.  I actually remember only sketchily details about his professional life and work outside of my direct experiences with him.  For those memories, other friends, students, colleagues, and loved ones can witness to his excellences.  For my part, I can tell you that this wonderful man used to refer to himself as “blessed among women,” as he worked mostly with female colleagues, administrators, and students.  He spent decades preparing women for work in ministry in the Catholic Church, and he would frequently state that women were the future. Continue reading “In Remembrance of Conrad Gromada by Natalie Weaver”

Musings on the Triune God by Natalie Weaver

This past term I had the opportunity to teach courses on the Christian doctrines of Christology and Trinity.  My first inclination was to approach these doctrines from the perspective of their historical development. For, I find the historical study of doctrinal development to be a fascinating and liberating approach to theology because it delivers the searcher from the illusions of ubiquity and universality, even in matters of the most central tenets of faith.  When people can see doctrine in its political, polemical, and posited guises, we can be free from absolutization of belief in past expressions as well as in present permutations.

Yet, as much as I enjoy tours through the historical development of faith formulations, I found myself unable to really commit to this approach this year.  I was more concerned with allowing students space to think about Christ and to think about God.  I wanted to introduce the problems and tensions that have dogged Christian logic and practice for millennia, but I wasn’t interested in arriving at conclusions or teaching modern experts’ answers.  I wanted to create occasion for my students to answer for themselves questions of justice and mercy; theodicy; particularity; scandal; and more. Continue reading “Musings on the Triune God by Natalie Weaver”

“Don’t Let the Store Shop You” by Natalie Weaver

My mother, in the great tradition of all mothers, says things sometimes that:  1) crack me up; 2) speak some depth of human truth; and 3) plainly and pithily state facts that could never be otherwise articulated, even if the task were undertaken by the whole complement of talents of Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, and J.K. Rowling combined.  I occasionally feel that I have failed as a mother myself because I do not have a mom-ist voice. If I have one, it surely isn’t pithy. I often find myself spending four hours in a graduate seminar, lecturing on some aspect of Christology and ministry or the like, only to summarize the whole thing with a “momism” that better said what I was getting at all along.

Today, in conversation, I came back around to one of my mom’s oldest and best bespeakings of truth-to-power. Some years back, we were talking about a sale at Macy’s, observing that the base prices on things seemed to go up and down in relationship to sale percentages, such that one always pays about the same, whether the item is “on sale” or just “for sale.”  Even the language of “on sale” seemed ridiculous, we mused, since everything in the store was being sold.  If the sale is “on,” I guessed that means it is “on,” like a string of pulsing Christmas lights or a kettle of boiling water or a revving engine, as opposed to a static, dusty package of picture hangers forgotten in the bottom rack of a narrow row in the bowels of a hardware store (unless, of course, the picture hangers were, well, on sale).  Continue reading ““Don’t Let the Store Shop You” by Natalie Weaver”

Integrity of the Self by Natalie Weaver

I sat in a frigid moot court room at a conference on the morning of March 8, trying to concentrate. Within an hour of the program’s opening keynote, my underarms had become damp with that weird cold sweat that happens when you are at once freezing and yet decidedly overwarm in your wool overcoat. I was distracted, trying to decide whether I was sick, menstruant, nervous, or inappropriately dressed.  My coat was long and fitted over my suit coat, and I was vaguely worried about bleeding through or around what had become a misaligned feminine product.  Sitting straight in all those stiff layers for several hours felt, I imagined, something like the confinement of a full body corset.

The collar was taut around my neck, which made me feel sort of protected, but my presently over-long hair was caught up in a bun that kept bumping against the back of that same collar.  My glasses were smudged, and I can barely see out of them anyway at present, so I pushed them on top of my head.  However, my piled up, giant-feeling hair kept rocking them off center, so they sat at a precarious tilt on their perch.  Every time I leaned to get something from my purse, they would clumsily tumble forward off my head and onto the floor.  My pulled-back hair was giving me hair headache (which is just hard to explain if you’ve never had it – maybe something like a toothache in your hair follicles), and my left eye was working a sty that made my left eyelid twice the size of the right one.  My eyes are naturally a little unevenly sized, and it is especially apparent when I am tired, so with the sty, I was rocking a sort of partial Peter Lori look. Continue reading “Integrity of the Self by Natalie Weaver”

I Shall Make Prayer of It by Natalie Weaver

This is a poem I published almost ten years ago. It is as if I wrote it yesterday.  The image is more or less of the same sentiment as the poem.

I publish these again here in memory of my father.



I am always cleaning
though not fast enough
to really organize
what I cannot put away.
It is messy in closets
that cover the appearance of order.
I am still sitting on wool carpet watching

The dusts dance in little beams of hope.
The same ones that lighted by wonder
in warmth and youth a beauty made
of windows and particles.
Probably the same ones that caused dirt and flu.
But what matter is it in the world that is merely
the simultaneity of being in which at once
the limos and the hearses depart for the church. Continue reading “I Shall Make Prayer of It by Natalie Weaver”

Eulogy for My Father by Natalie Weaver

Fourteen years ago, I was pregnant with William Valentine.  I had no idea what to expect.  I knew only that I was in a body, and it was pregnant.  Things happened to me, to my body, that seemed extrinsic to my person, so much so that for most of those forty weeks, I felt as though the doctor’s office was having the baby, and I was a mere observer.  But, when the time came to deliver the baby, I realized it was my body that was trying to make passage for another’s.  The particularities of myself and the baby’s self seemed to fade away into something more vital and primordial in the process of the transmission of life.  After a safe delivery, I felt a deep and curious gratitude that was beyond the gratitude I had for my child or for our health.  This strange gratitude was born of the passage I had been so fortunate to experience, that is, this novel yet ancient, essential yet unparalleled dimension of human being-ness.  I had given live birth, and I was grateful to know what that was like.  In that experience, I was more connected to my human brothers and sisters than I had ever been before, including to this new baby, who I knew in my deepest self was more fundamentally a brother human than even he was my own child.  I knew that in this transmission, I had helped a fellow traveler, and that transmitting life was simple even while it was giant in scope.  The experience was and would always be about walking with each other, from the cradle to the grave, in our vulnerability, in our fragility, in our humility, and in that walk, to find our strength, our dignity, and our luminescence, as persons, as creatures that think and speak and love.  To have been a party to another’s coming to be, this was an occasion of the greatest gratitude I had known.

In accompanying my father in this final stage of his life during these challenging and difficult months as he journeyed toward his death, I felt that same vital and primordial passage of being that I had in giving birth.  While it was not my body that this time labored and worked, I was party to his experience.  I witnessed his courage and another kind of transmission of life.  For, I saw a man go from self-concern to other-concern; from hope of getting well to hope to of making things better for others; I witnessed a man move from verbal complaint to silent focus; and I heard his relocation of worry for himself to concern for me because he knew I was hurting as I was watching him, mostly powerless to do anything but sit next to him. I saw a man graduate from a regular man to an elder and then to naked spirt in God’s care, and I was honored to be one of his midwives on that journey.  In his final hours, he became full of grace, and he fulfilled the trajectory of becoming the father and man he always intended to be.  It was an honor to behold, and I am grateful.

Continue reading “Eulogy for My Father by Natalie Weaver”

A Precious Gift by Natalie Weaver

This has been another hard month.  I don’t feel it to be hard.  I just know objectively that it is.  The typical challenge of balancing my work with the children’s needs and the management of a household has been intensified by the onset of a serious medical condition in my family.  I now enter that phase of elder care, which I understand is more or less bound to bankrupt the average household.  I have become the much-begrudged adult child, compelled to make decisions for other people’s lives and regarded in the fog of suspicion. My intentions are now under scrutiny; my time is usurped; my efforts are thankless.  I’m not complaining really.  I am just describing.

In the midst of things, I have managed to take my older son to the seeming ends of the earth to visit potential high schools.  I am managing a Destination Imagination team for my fourth grade son’s class.  I am teaching six courses, and my home is relatively clean.  I am running a weekly lecture series, I volunteered at the Church this month, and no one has missed any meals.  I even managed to sew a blanket for a friend’s new baby. There are many more serious family, medical, and economic issues that underlie my day-to-day, but along with everyone else, and perhaps a little more so than some others, I just accept that I am amazingly over-extended.

Continue reading “A Precious Gift by Natalie Weaver”

Falling Rocks by Natalie Weaver

My dad took me to see Bill Cosby in Columbus, Ohio when I was a kid.  We used to listen to a record of him talking, which I could only pretend to find funny even then, but dad liked it and wanted to see him in person.  The venue had really narrow seating, and although I could barely hear Cosby’s routine, I laughed for most of the show.  I had brought a friend with me, who was heavier set, and she squirmed miserably the whole time, at one point looking pleadingly at me and whispering, “I’m trying to get comfortable.”  Now, he’s in the slammer, and I get a little ill every time I think of Pudding Pops.

Not too long ago, Uncle Frank died.  He terrorized three generations of women in my family.  My mom was a little girl when he exposed himself behind a door jam, so that all she could see was his ghostly pale member protruding through the open walkway.  She would laugh when she told the story but reminded us to stay clear of him.  He was regarded as a family clown, but on his death bed, as my mom put it, he finally “got her.” As she sat at the edge of his bed to bid him farewell, his toes wriggled contentedly into her buttocks.  He died with a smile on his face.  We laugh, but it isn’t funny.  Who knows what he did on his free time?

Continue reading “Falling Rocks by Natalie Weaver”

Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver

Dear Sirs,

It breaks me down.  My anger, my revulsion, my powerlessness.   I have been searching for the way since I was a child old enough to remember my mind.  For a time, I thought Jesus was a white guy knocking on my door after having seen a religious pamphlet placed under our windshield wiper.  I’m not sure he has blond hair anymore, but I still feel him knocking.  I have been in love with him for as long as I have been a self, so much so that I baptized myself as a little girl.

Somewhere along the way, I figured my little, lonely way wasn’t good enough, and I wanted a church home.  I finished a doctoral dissertation trying to find some place I could hang my hat.  I picked the Roman Catholic Church, despite what I knew of it and what I had to defend about its patriarchy and history to family and friends.  I loved the conversation, the so-called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”  I always felt myself to be a covert, a conversa, a definitive outsider, and someone not to be trusted entirely as a cradle Catholic might be trusted, yet I tried to be family. I’ve been bringing up my kids in the Church, volunteering, working in Catholic education, paying the boys’ tuition.  I do work-arounds, making excuses for the exclusion of women, defying the Church’s stance on sexuality with a critical repertoire of cross-disciplinary scholarship.  Lord, I even had to help my Seventh-Day Adventist mom with a hostile annulment process that was dropped on her unsuspecting by a horrendously insensitive marriage tribunal.  It wounded us all. Yet, here I have sat, until this.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver”

A Curious Blessing by Natalie Weaver

A few years back, I turned forty years old. On the cusp of this landmark birthday, I wrote about the stigma of so-called midlife crises.  I resisted the idea that changes associated with midlife should be mocked, when indeed many of those changes actually represent something like birth itself.  I have come to think, however, that I was perhaps naïve in my wild embrace of midlife self-birthing.  I still believe what I said before, basically, which was that midlife occasions opportunity for self-knowledge in a way that is largely inaccessible to babies, children, adolescents, and novice adults.  What I could not have known a few years back is how much it costs to answer the waking self’s summons.

In the years since I first started thinking about myself as a person in midlife, I have experienced a trifecta of sweeping changes in work, family, and health.  My sense of self has been destabilized, and, even more, what I value has changed.  In ways, I do not recognize myself, while in others, I do not recognize the girl in the photographs around my house.  It seems like she was always hiding beneath her Mona Lisa smile the woman that would show up in a few decades.  All these disillusionments!  All these decisions!  All this stuff in my kitchen and basement! Continue reading “A Curious Blessing by Natalie Weaver”

Following My Dreams by Natalie Weaver

Dreaming has always been a huge part of my life.  When I was a little girl, I would run to my mom in the morning, before I was even completely awake, and tell her what I had been dreaming,  It would seem very important, I mean, desperately, terribly important, to share whatever journey I had been on.

I would have repeating dreams; dreams with choose-your-own-adventure options; dreams with strange symbols and images and words.  I must have known that my dreams were valuable in a particular way to my waking mind, my manner of knowing, and even my concepts of reality because quite early on in my life I started to try to understand what dreaming actually was.  I remember getting a book called Far Journeys (or something like that) about lucid dreaming.  I remember learning about dream paralysis, which was a cause of great relief, since I occasionally experienced it and had to overcome the sense of terror it created.  I developed an early and avid interest in dream symbolism and psychology.  I was relieved when I finally learned the name Carl Jung.  In short, dreaming was central to my total experience of mind. Continue reading “Following My Dreams by Natalie Weaver”

LeBron James and Loads of Baskets by Natalie Weaver

On June 8, Cleveland watched the Cavaliers lose the NBA championship.  Outside of Cleveland, according to the commentators I heard, no one really expected our guys to pull it off.  But, here in Cleveland, we felt otherwise. Up until the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Herculean LeBron took the bench, we were still thinking something magical could happen.  When he stopped, the game ended.  We lost. And, the city, once again, had to recast its disappointment, redirect its energies, and rediscover the eschatological hope that is the core of Cleveland’s athletic grit: “there’s always next year!”

Over the past few years, I have noticed t-shirts popping up around the city that say things such as, “I liked Cleveland before it was cool;” “216;” and even one that details the geometric shape and geographic coordinates of a Bernie Kosar winning touchdown pass.   Ohio love is blooming in the rust; things are green in our urban gardens, and progressive real estate is making of bombed out warehouses cool art studios, breweries, and theater houses for budding local talent. Continue reading “LeBron James and Loads of Baskets by Natalie Weaver”

Implausible, Impossible Hope by Natalie Weaver

With the single exception of a weak moment in my oldest son’s kindergarten year, during which time the grade school manipulated parents into fundraising schemes by dangling socially advantageous perks (such as a reward trip to a water park) for only those children whose parents participated at a high level in the initiatives, I have never subscribed to any magazines.  Nevertheless, I continue to believe, on some core level, that Ed McMahon is even now driving down the street toward me in the white Publisher’s Clearing House van with a check for one million dollars.  The fact that Ed is long deceased seems to have no bearing on my conviction that the great Miracle, complete with balloons and a camera crew, is blazing toward me and just around the corner.  I never play the lottery, and I actually managed to go to Las Vegas once without gambling a single dollar, yet I feel almost daily that some Jackpot Jeep Bonanza Giveaway has my name all over it.

Continue reading “Implausible, Impossible Hope by Natalie Weaver”

An Open Letter to Mom by Natalie Weaver

Dear Mom,

I want to take this opportunity to tell you I have learned so much from you over these years that I have been privileged to call you “mom.” I watch you, as you get older, as I also get older, and I continue to learn from you.  You are always telling me that a person cannot know something truly until they get there; that every decade of life is different; and that life becomes, in the end-game, a process of letting go.  I see you, and I know by watching you that this is true.

I remembered you today, from when I was just a child, getting ready to go out for the evening with Dad.  You were spraying your hair into an impressive beehive, pulling on stockings, and fragrancing your wrists with Fabergé cologne.  You were beautiful then, and you taught me that life should be beautiful, our home should be a place of refuge, and every day was worth celebrating.  You used to sing about loving your home, and you maintained it so elegantly.  It was lovely to be your child in that home.  Thank you. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Mom by Natalie Weaver”

Telling Stories by Natalie Weaver

Human beings tell stories. This may sound like a simple truth.  To folklorists, literature professors, and people who work in media and in government, I would sound like a rather simple-minded child to be arriving so late in life at this obvious fact.  We tell stories.  And, just as the phrase “telling a story” might connote, our stories are not always true to life.   Our stories are descriptors and meaning-making efforts, largely rooted in our grappling with self and group identity.

Take, for example, the story of human life as exceptional in the animal kingdom.   As a child I would try to answer for myself the question of what made human beings distinct from other animals, since I had learned somewhere along the way that we were and are exceptional.  I considered the stock answer “reason,” which seemed to me sufficient to explain how human beings did everything, from the writing of language to the building of skyscrapers. As a student of theology, I enlarged upon the rational faculty to see it as the divine in the human, operating as the co-creative element with which human beings gain structural manipulation over our environments.  We make things after our image, just as God made us after God’s.   Continue reading “Telling Stories by Natalie Weaver”

Another Brick in the (Ivory) Wall by Natalie Weaver

I have recently read a couple of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the challenge of working in academia.  One article lamented the paucity of tenure line positions and the great disappointment some ex-academics feel when they finally give up searching for that elusive job, which is actually non-existent.  Another article reported on the sham interview experience, in which a national search is conducted, but the whole thing is a ruse since an internal candidate already has the position.  Hopeful candidates put their families and lives on hold as they bide months of time while thinking, completely ignorant of the reality of situation, that they may be in line for a new position.  They get letters of reference, prepare for interviews, buy suits, arrange childcare, manage time away from whatever they would otherwise be doing to make an interview, and then endure the emotional trial of waiting.

They never had a chance.  They never even knew they never had a chance.  As one who has been in this situation, I can vouch that such pretenses of fairness and transparency are not equal opportunities for employment but dishonestly motivated, targeted opportunities for exploitation.

Academia, friends, worries me enormously.  And, I’m not at all sure what we are doing.  As a former board member of a large theology society, I had the privilege of working with new members, many of whom were degree-seekers, finishing up courses, exams, and research projects.  Each person’s work could arguably be, to a greater or lesser degree, sufficiently interesting to some population of readers, but the lot, en masse, would inevitably strike me as, well, struggling in the very least to be relevant.  What schools could or would support these newly minted degrees?  What academic programs would these new scholars populate, and who in turn would be their students? Continue reading “Another Brick in the (Ivory) Wall by Natalie Weaver”

Time Traveling Letter to Kids of the 70s (especially you, Natalie) by Natalie Weaver

Hmmm…. Time Travel?  Maybe, I suppose.  I recall a strange video clip in which Steven Hawking throws a Time Travelers’ Party.  He sends an invitation for a fancy soiree, holds the event, and sets the scene where future folk will find a welcome reception at specific coordinates in the past, should they find the means to get there.

Then, there’s the Baby and Bird pub in Oxford, England, where the famed Inklings writers convened to share manuscripts.  There was a curious tile in the wall of one of the more private rooms, wherein, while drinking my Pimm’s Cup, I was told by some cat playing cards that Tolkien, Lewis, and company made a pact to use that tile as a sort of gathering horcrux, if they discovered they could get meet up again after crossing into the world beyond.  I can imagine that conversation among pipe-smoking guys in tweed, very seriously stacking their hands together, imbuing their spirits into a piece of decorative ceramic.  I hope it is a true story.  I’ve heard enough Brian Greene to appreciate theoretically how perhaps skipping ahead to the future is possible.

My greatest sympathy, though, for the time theorists goes to my old professor, who used to pray for things to be different in his past.  He said he believed God could change anything.  I thought it was eccentric, and I sort of think he was praying for particular events and things to actually have been different.  I admit, his level of specificity is hard for me to brook, but the concept makes a measure of sense when I consider that a person’s past is still actively present in her or his personhood insofar as we are constantly remembering, revaluing, and reintegrating ourselves in one way or another.

From a transcendental personal perspective, things that are decades old condition certain meanings, values, and tolerances in the present self. I have lunch with a friend every couple of months, and there is a never a visit that goes by in which she does not recount and somehow integrate the experience of having a gun pointed at her head.  Our stories, especially how we re-member them, great and small, live on in us.  It occurs to me even as I write that our conditioning is not even our own exclusively; we carry legacies of the human and cultural past in our embodied presents.  And, we presume the future every time we make a promise.

I am reminded of St. Augustine here and largely persuaded to appreciate the value of recognizing something like a perpetual NOW: Continue reading “Time Traveling Letter to Kids of the 70s (especially you, Natalie) by Natalie Weaver”

Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver

I’m finished with my first semester as a studio arts major at Kent State University.  I am not sure whether I’ll be registering for a second one.  There were pros and cons about the experience, and I am not sure if one set outweighed the other. Regardless, I am on sabbatical this spring, have two books to complete, and figured I would do well not to be trekking back and forth in an hours worth of snow and ice over the next few months from my home to the school.  So, I am taking a semester off, and I have become one of those retention risks. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the experience with only minimal consequence to my bank account and my (laughing) future in the arts.

It wasn’t a bad experience; it wasn’t a good one either, really.  I learned some things in drawing, but I am very much on the fence about my experience in sculpture.  For starters, I imagined playing with clay and making pinch pots while some Swayzesque spirit from beyond rubbed my shoulders.  Instead, I was more Jessica Beal with a welding mask, except, instead of wearing a swanky black leotard and off-the-shoulder-slouch-dance tunic, I was wearing ugly jeans and steal-toed shoes under the green welding suit that had half-dollar size holes in it.  The protective gear only partially worked; I was scared of the tools after a classmate almost lost a finger; and the top of my hair went up in smoke when a spark shot under my ill-fitting Vader hat on week two.  I put it out quickly, fortunately.

Continue reading “Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver”

At the Altar of the Muses by Natalie Weaver

I was asked by my sculpture teacher to make a monument.  “A monument to what,” I asked? “Anything,” he answered.  The only parameter seemed to be that the work was produced in wood.  Having seen some interesting stone and marbleizing paints, I had the immediate idea to transform the wood into a marble-like appearance.  Marble, for some reason, probably because it is the cemetery standard, seemed like the right medium for a monument to me.

All the students in the class intuitively thought of death-related concepts.  A monument to death itself was suggested.  A monument to failed works of art, another student offered.  A monument to broken tools.  Several students suggested something like coffins, since, well, they are made of wood.  I thought of death too at first.  I asked myself whom was I wanting to pedestalize, monumentalize, and memorialize.

Continue reading “At the Altar of the Muses by Natalie Weaver”

Neither My Duty nor My Honor by Natalie Weaver

Just the other day, I realized that discussion of my housekeeping has been a fairly regular conversation throughout my life.  One of my earliest memories is being about four years old in my yellow bedroom on Ruth Avenue in North Canton, Ohio, sitting amidst what seemed like a mountain of stuff.  I was trying to organize and put it away at my mother’s behest.  I had a red bandana tied across the top of my hair, and I was pressed up against a large cardboard box decorated with Disney’s slapstick hero, Donald Duck.  I was young and apparently had not learned how to differentiate all my consonants, because, as the story goes, I complained that all I ever did was “cwean, cwean, cwean!”

As a teenager in my mauve bedroom on Demington Avenue in Canton, Ohio, my sister and I, who shared a bedroom, were under the constant scrutiny of our stepfather.  I don’t remember it being exceptionally messy in there; the space was probably maintained better than average for kids our age, but the house was managed like the army.  Once, the appearance of the room was sufficiently troubling as to result in the removal of our bedroom door from its hinges.  I am still not sure what the purpose of this weird punishment was (humiliation?), but I recall feeling this to be one of the lowest points in my whole housecleaning career. Continue reading “Neither My Duty nor My Honor by Natalie Weaver”

Gaining Perspective by Natalie Weaver

I don’t know if I could be a deep-sea welder.  I don’t know what the risks of lethal electrocution, broken limbs, or the bends would be.  I suspect it can be a dangerous occupation, like operating heavy equipment on good old dry land or fishing for crab or even collecting garbage from the neighbors’ driveways.  So too is this the case with window washing, paving, disposing of medical waste, brick making, driving a giant tanker truck, and more.  There are aspects of the world I know I take for granted, but the moment I stop to consider what those aspects might be, I am humbled and reminded of the privilege it is to philosophize and ponder the functions of religion in the shaping and making of society.

I have a newfound, barely there insight, both on my privilege and my need to be wiser, derived from the use of (hold your breath) a yardstick.  In what is either a desperate gambit for meaning or the fulfillment of a dream long deferred, I returned to school to take some art classes this fall.  I have my own homework, assignments, a syllabus, and, gasp, grades to worry about for the first time since 2003.  As I drove in the dark and rain for almost an hour this morning at 6:00 am, to a parking lot that sits a solid half hour away from the bus I need to take, which deposits me a fifteen minute walk from the building where I study, in order to make a 7:45 am start time, I wondered briefly what I was doing and why.  But, as soon as I took out my yardstick to measure and represent objects in perspective, I remembered why I undertook such an errand. Continue reading “Gaining Perspective by Natalie Weaver”

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