shake this thing, this hour, this book this life. – Eloise Klein Healy

One of my favorite things in the world is to see images of a place before it was the place as I know it now – the before and after of landscape. The way a city like the one I know best – Charlottesville – becomes the streets and buildings I recognize.  I love to learn about the first structures, hewn from logs chopped fresh, about the roads deep in mud and mire.  I grieve over the communities and stories lost to rubble and “progress.”

Vinegar Hill in Charlottesville

Image from University of Virginia

It’s easy to imagine – in the before and then the after – that this change happens in big ways over short times. . . when actually, buildings go up over months, streets take years to wind, neighborhoods decades to coalesce. It’s only the destruction that happens quickly.

I was taught – as were many of my generation and the one before us – that our role in this world was to do great things  – to solve the plague of hunger, to cure AIDS, to carry forth the strong baby of equality into our communities.  It’s a powerful calling and a heavy burden.

And it’s a calling that lies because it makes us think that an individual can do these things quickly, day in and day out.  It deceives us into thinking every day has to be amazing,  see “great results,” and leave us convinced we have done everything we can to make the world a better place.  (It’s amazing to me how easily these phrases comes to the front of my mind, as if I’ve been whispering them to myself for decades.)

Is it really possible to live the big, grand life every day? To do great things? To “make change” in ways that are perceptible in 24 hours?  I’m not really sure it is – at least not every day.  Not today, when I am tired and just need to do these few, quiet things, to pay these bills, to pick up this goat food, to write these simple words.  Today, the changes will have to be subtle; they will have to settle out like grains deposited on a new sand bar, like coral growing itself in the quiet wake of that protection.

I’m learning more and more that big changes come in lumbering ways – a word heard and mulled over through the tongue of years, a choice made to live true and simple, to walk two feet more and throw the can into the recycling bin rather than the trash.  To live every day with integrity to the things we believe are good, and just, and holy, and right.

I am learning that most of these things are small – a kind word to the clerk at the post office, a short nap in the afternoon sun, a hug for someone you love more than the rest of the world.

For the shaken hours, those golden days that shift our world toward more light, they come because we are true in the quiet moments, the silent choices.


In Charlottesville, the thriving neighborhood of Vinegar Hill – a home and place of work for many of the city’s African American residents was destroyed by an “urban renewal” project in the 1960s.  Families and businesses were forced to move. The buildings disappeared and were replaced by new structures. The every day life of an entire community pushed over.

The story of Vinegar Hill went quiet for a long time, but now, through movements like the Vinegar Hill Project, a quiet, powerful initiative to resurrect this story and to share it broadly, the story is reaching more ears.  In a quiet way, a powerful way, a way that will restore.  A story that will bring another “after” to the “before.”

The story of change – creation, restoration, healing – is a subtle one. A powerful work done over days and years.  Hope rebuilt in the every day.

What change do you feel burdened to make? Does the burden of making that change quickly and in a “big” way weigh you down? What ways have you found to be content with the daily work?



My September newsletter is going out in the next day or two.  I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the new farm, letting you in on a deal for one of my books, and revealing my secret for staying off social media when I need to write.  To sign up to receive my daily posts, my monthly newsletter, or both, just follow this link – http://eepurl.com/r_45b.  Thanks.