June 25th, 2012

California days seem short even when they’re not, dimmed by the sudden slant of the afternoon rays. The heat of a workday chills by four. Even in summer, our suppers were always at five.

My grandfather would open the screen door and call us kids inside. I might be kneeling under the shade arbor digging in muddy loam with a bent spoon. Might be on the side of the house corralling pill bugs into a coffee tin. Might be on the swing dragging my bare feet in the dirt. Or I might be invisibly snug under the umbrella boughs of an orange tree, sitting still and quiet. All those days in the dirt are what made the place my own.

Hearing my name rise in the air, I would come running toward the deep resonance in his voice, and in that instant, be completely accounted for. Teachers take roll, that’s what teachers do. They stand on a step and say your name. How do you respond?

Here I am!

What matters most is that you’re here. It matters most because it is the one irrefutable fact of your life. To say anything more misses the mark.


I am so glad that I will be here, spending two days in Washington, DC Oct. 20-21, calling your name. How will you respond?



  1. So true re: California days, Karen.

    “Here I am,” the preferred response. Think of what I might miss if I call out (whine?), “Just a minute.”

    Thanks for memories and ever-new material for reflection across a perfectly beautiful CA summer afternoon.

    Comment by celeste — June 25, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  2. Days in the dirt, what a great description.

    Comment by Bobbi — June 26, 2012 @ 1:42 am

  3. Looking forward to seeing you again!

    Comment by Ranya — June 26, 2012 @ 2:30 am

  4. called, i am…and off to DC i go!

    Comment by mindy — June 26, 2012 @ 6:33 am

  5. Dear Karen
    I would love to respond “Yes, here I am” to sit with you in Washington. Perhaps, instead, I may host you in my community some day. Then I will surely say “Here I am!”

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — June 26, 2012 @ 7:06 am

  6. I respond with a resounding YES!! So excited to have you with us again so we can share the beauty of “being here” together.

    Comment by Michelle — June 26, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  7. Teachers take roll, that’s what teachers do. They stand on a step and say your name. This struck right to the heart of my personal longing. To have someone important say my name. To know that my presence matters. To be seen, heard, valued. When it happens, that feels so satisfying to the emotional me. When it doesn’t there’s my challenge, to sit with those emotions, instead of turning away. To reconcile their emptiness with the fact that they exist.

    Comment by Dawn Downey — June 27, 2012 @ 9:58 am

  8. When the unimportant say your name, there is no one more important.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 27, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  9. I am VERY excited you’ll be in my neck of the woods. I will be present, there, and excited to meet you!

    Comment by Julie — July 2, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  10. Not too much that would get me to head into DC, being a country girl first and a Richmonder second, but .. . .here I am! I will be there, after marking my father’s 80th birthday.

    Comment by Laura — July 5, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

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