Such Is Life


Rooted in the family tree, I ponder my place and allegience to it.


There are endless ruts of great majesty in the emotional tides of being an Urdang,


Rather late in the day, I stand, determined to avoid the distortion of being right over being happy.


And look beyond the island of self, toward the horizon of humanity.


What stares back is a glorious mess; seasons and people coming and going faster than a sigh.

As my mother would say, ‘Such is life.’

Symbols of Loss


I am split,


  Stripped bare and prickly,


Unmoored and abandoned, a boat out of water,


Am having trouble seeing things clearly, and for what they are.  What is grief, what is diversion, what is the truth in all these emotions?  Where is my dad?

Trained to be strong, to deny feelings, I am determined to ride the waves of emotions, to go through another loss that brings up all the others, and to continue to live and love through it all.


I’m calling on angels, calling on loved ones who’ve helped me through this week, I’m calling on writing to make sense of this chaos.  And reaching to my readers who might say, “I know what she means, I’ve felt that too.”

Another Horizon


When my sister, Gretchen, died in a fire, the family immediately gathered in Springfield, Missouri.  Since I had just received a new certification as a reverend, I was the designated moderator of the memorial.

The night before the service, my dad came into my hotel room and said, “Steph, there’s something I want you to read.  You know I don’t ask for much but I’m asking for this.”  He pulled out his wallet and thumbed through decades of precious little pieces of soiled papers, unfolding, reading and folding them back up.  I never saw him as an old man until that moment, slow and broken because his youngest went before him.  Finally, he came to THE one.  “They read this at my friend’s funeral, Steph, and I want you to read it tomorrow.  And don’t argue with me”  He handed me the faded limp text, I took it from him, squinted at the type, and unbeknownst to either of us, it was the same poem I had brought with me to read.

Once again, it’s time to read it, this time for my dad, Sol Urdang:

June 21,1923 – July 19, 2013

Poem. The Ship, by Charles Henry Brent
What is dying?

I am standing on the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her
until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle
with each other.
Then someone at my side says: ‘There! She’s gone.’
Gone where? Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she
was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living
freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her;
and just at the moment when someone at my side says:
‘There! She’s gone,’
there are others watching her coming,
and voices ready to take up the glad shout
‘There she comes!’
And that is dying.



May Dad’s journey be met with loving arms.

I’d like to think the woman in the red dress that Dad saw on his ceiling Thursday night was Gretchen, waiting for him, as he began to sail to the other side.

Dad& KU portrait 2011 copy

in red copy

Approaching the Queen

Humbled again, still in love, the crown appears in the sky


Her Royal Highness granting wishes to her subjects


I wished for a sliver of silver and there it was on 40th street, hiding in the canyon.


Then I peeked into an enclave and discovered a glass abode in the midst of old bricks.  The colors reminded me of another place I love: Mexico, right in the middle of Manhattan.


This is my week of reconnecting to the city after a lull of brewing at home, failing to remember the beauty of New York.  What a wonderful town.

Ode to Whispering Towers

From one extreme to another, boys quietly discussing fishing in my last post, to towers whispering from above near Bryant Park, both scenes causing pause.


Concrete, steel, glass, silence,


Grand matriarchs holding their own,


Dreamers dancing to conquer the impossible.


If one looks closely, there is grace abounding in human beings creating a world of commerce, art, and everything in between.  All on one small island: heaven, that can be hell, millions of miracles every moment in this city that somehow works as a whole.

 After twenty eight years, I still love it like a child in the stage of discovery and wonder.










In the Land of Ferns and Fairies


At the end of this road is an Alpine lake.

John and I were at the water’s edge,.  He held his Cairn, Jack Angus, and hand scooped a shower on his overheated fuzzball body.  While we quietly talked and he played with Jack in air thicker than water, we noticed two lanky boys sauntering down the road toward the dock. I said a soft hello.  One looked to be about ten and the other fourteen.  I watched them with fascination as they  sat and engaged in a quiet conversation on the gently rocking dock.  They seemed like ghosts from the nineteen fifties.

As the younger one looked up and listened, the oldest did most of the talking.  His unpredictable voice slid in and out of manhood, soft and wise one second and squaking the next.

I heard him tell his companion, “My Dad says if you fish only to catch a fish, you might be disappointed.  But if you do it for the enjoyment of fishing, then if you catch one, it’s a bonus.”

As we walked away, John said to me, “They seem very olde world, don’t they?’  He had noticed too but I was so curious about them I failed to notice John noticing.  The boys haunted me the rest of the day: youngsters quietly existing in this technological world.  They were without noise, sans handhelds, no jumping around or screaming or throwing rocks, just enjoying each other’s company.


I couldn’t actually remember the last time I was privy to two boys on a dock.  Where did they come from, I wondered, these little philosophers?

 And then I figured it out.  The lake community where John and Kevin have their house began as a utopia in the late 1800’s, and has remained a land of ferns and fairies, and boys that are content to sit and think about things


 And adults who like to be reminded of that sleepy time in life, at least on the weekends.

For more photos from another season at The Ledge, one much cooler: http://wildnaturefny/2013/0324/

Prepared to Meet With Beauty

 ‘I never knew anyone better prepared to meet with beauty.’

 So says Jill Lapore in her recent essay, The Prodigal Daughter.  In The New Yorker, she describes the trunk of her mother’s car, always ready with a collapsible easel, tubes of paint, brushes, and a smock, just in case she  crosses a vision of painterly interest.

That’s a lovely thing to be known for: being prepared to meet with beauty.  When things are in limbo and one day is like too many others, how does one see it?  How does one know they are in the presence of beauty?   ‘Not by just focusing on one’s self,’ I thought, as I walked to the windows of my apartment.

 Before me was more majesty than I could have dreamed: a momentous winged angelic wisp over One World Trade Center, right where it was needed; two symbols of hope coming together.


In the few minutes that I stood watching, a distinct hole remained over the needle of the tower, as if its energy pierced the heavens.


Of late, I have taken many photos of the new building as it goes up, each one influenced by the moody atmosphere: here an X of jets passing in the evening.


On Sunday night, dressed in red white and blue, standing up for equality for all citizens of our great nation.


Happy Birthday to us.  I am going into this 4th of July celebrating the ideas of an evolved humanity that embraces the politics of the best for all concerned. And a population that takes pride in stewardship over the ailing planet,


For without our loving attention, life on earth is as vulnerable as a dandelion in the wind.  But with it, there is so much beauty to be met.