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Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Past Columns Grace Notes

Jumping Jack Flash
This column is about the Rolling Stones and my neighbor Larry in his yellow snow slicker. It’s not about politics. Really.
Jan 28, 2012
A Gift for You
It is crackling cold – icicles days old, no melt in sight, snow dry as sand, streets like rinks; all day you try to walk carefully, carefully, precisely and balanced like a big horned sheep.
Dec 21, 2011
Darkness and Light
It’s December again. Like the slow and brightly lit turn of a Ferris wheel, it comes around shiny and lit as dusk falls near the year’s ending. Now we continue to lose light daily and will until winter solstice gives it back to us incrementally, a ray at a time, a minute at a time until the snappy arrival of spring.
Dec 19, 2011
Coyotes and Boys
The wind is shuddering across the spine of every rooftop. The hollow sound of it gets stuck in air vents, like bass-voiced ghosts trying to get in until, bored, they unhook, free themselves, fly on. It’s the kind of wind that arrives in waves, and swells, in increments large and small, rising then falling, then rising again. Pipe-chimes all over the city dance in rhythms far past music and just shy of noise and clatter.
Dec 5, 2011
The Little White Church
The patches left in the sky fill with the cupolas of barns, hidden all summer, from view. I drive south out of Loveland, Colorado, on a road I know by feel, by the pull of direction, by the mountains to my right, the sun to my left.
Nov 23, 2011
Cora
....For a moment I worry she’s going to want to talk to me about the Bible. I don’t want to talk about the Bible; I want to get through this flight....
Nov 13, 2011
Starting Again
When I broke from writing this column last March, I wrote that I needed to gather. I’ve sat in the barely cold of Colorado spring wrapped in a past-its-prime afghan; I’ve walked and walked and walked. I’ve learned how to use a hammer drill (something I hope never, ever, to have to do again) and built a deck (my longest step twelve feet by 2 ½ feet, framed on 10 inch centers).
Oct 30, 2011
Rocco's Chair
Rocco’s Chair Deep in the corner of my garage, a shelf holds my ratchet set, a drill, my Dremmel, a purple zip pouch full of bits, and a wooden cigar box with a slide lid; it’s carved with the initials R.C., Rocco Costanza, my grandfather who died many years ago.
Mar 7, 2011
The Small Gifts of Boys
....We’ve been trapped in the house forever. My husband went to get the papers, put one foot on what he thought was the damp driveway, and flew into the air like a wayward hockey puck, slammed down, slid.
Feb 13, 2011
A Way to Allow Breath
....You are 10 and it is your turn to collect the playground equipment. You get to ignore the bell, stay out in the sun, gather all the wayward rubber balls rolling into the weeded chain linked corners where the children never go.
Feb 6, 2011
Guns and Treehouses
....We hold it in our heads, don’t we? Some sense of the world that sometimes calms us and sometimes fills us with trepidation. In the best of all possible scenarios this world-sense would be static, foundational, rooted in equilibrium and steadiness. It would be honorable and loyal and centered in the belief that most human beings are good. But such a sense, in our current American culture, is hard to hold on to each morning, without fail, day in and day out.
Jan 24, 2011
Good Grief and Ghosts
.... Right after grandmother died last summer, I wandered around my parent’s house worrying that I’d never feel her again. I shared this only with my husband because my penchant for thinking I feel my dead people annoys the rest of my family. “What if I can’t ever feel her? What if she’s all the way gone?
Nov 30, 2010
No Poems Left
....Assignment. Here you go – ready, set? Picture yourself an animal. What are you? Where are you? Make it fit for real. When my youngest son was very small, he was afraid for a long time.
Nov 17, 2010
The Inclination to Change Sides
.... The shade covering my kitchen window is splashed with red sauce because I splash gravy. For ten years, I had no shade at all, only a sheet of glass overlooking the edge of my neighbor’s back yard, the prairie, the foothills and the blink of an early sunset dropping below the south end of the foothills. I used to watch my reflection look back as the light faded and the black came suddenly into view.
Nov 2, 2010
Butts to Stomachs
Through all the messages of hate and anger thrust at us each day, it is because of air travel that I know we will all be OK. I think that, during the last ten years we’ve struggled, wriggled, wrung and worried, but never fell far from OK. Like all the other times in our history when we’ve been burdened and laid lower than we’d like, we’ve done steadfastly well. Americans never left hope behind.
Oct 19, 2010
What May Come Next
We are back to October, come full circle around, to the darkening, orange-bright, rabbit-brush-in-yellow-bloom time of year. One day it’s as hot-as-summer and just as quickly the next day brings a cold front dropping down low, filled with stinging rain that passes as fast as it came.
Oct 5, 2010
It Will Do
I’m sitting in the backyard, pulled tightly into a ball, peering over my own knees. The lavender bushes, limbs pickup-stick messy, fall haphazardly all over each other. The bees are fat and bobbly. When the bare wind drops to flat, I can hear them buzz their deep drones. Today something very terrible happened to two people I love.
Sep 23, 2010
Mosques and Turnip Trucks
To the Reader who inquired: No, I Did Not Fall off a Turnip Truck What happened on 9/11 was not Islam any more than it was Christianity, or Judaism, or Mormonism. What happened on 9/11 was terrorism. All Muslims are not terrorists any more than all Christians are terrorists.
Sep 1, 2010
Death and the In-Between
This I know about death: when someone dies, the absence is so sudden and complete – physically and concretely – that in that moment, in that room, you can feel the one less. In that moment, a body goes from being a soul-home and a vessel, to being just a vessel. You can feel the soul gone.
Apr 7, 2010
And the Lemons Smell So Sweet
My family’s been in northern California for two weeks. Each time we make the drive over highway 17 to visit Grandma Great, I think of food. When I head back over the hill toward the sea, again, I think of food. This isn’t hard to do in Northern California, along the coast, where mile after mile of farmland lays moist under fog that rolls back or burn off into still moist sunlight
Apr 1, 2010
Precarious Kites
Lately, when I start the day, I ride hope and optimism like I’m balancing on a barely broken horse. This morning I leave the house on time, with two boys, each lost in their own waking-up, as am I.
Mar 30, 2010
How Dare You
Somewhere inside of you something waits. You may know exactly what this thing is, may have named it, and even filled in the lines of it with color and texture. You may have it picture- perfect and clearly defined. Or, it may be vague, fuzzy, a nudging that won’t stop its slight push; it may be a threshold thing, powerful and lingering at a door you can’t quite open yet.
Mar 10, 2010