birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I make a concerted effort not to accumulate clutter and tchotchkes, and have worked hard to rid myself of unnecessary stuff. I agree with William Morris, the English arts and crafts designer, who said, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”

There is one keepsake I have accumulated, though. A few years a go I decided that, as an incentive, if I met my financial goal for the year I would get my first tattoo.

That gave me several months to choose what to get. I started thinking about a labyrinth but, not really knowing anything about tattoos, decided it it would be very detailed and probably fairly painful. My next idea was to choose my favorite verse from the Bible, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” It was challenging for me to find a good visual image in that verse.

My next step was one of the stories of the Desert Mothers and Fathers. The story goes:

Abba Joseph said to Abba Lot, “You cannot be a monk unless you become like a consuming fire.”

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”

Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

As the time approached I asked one of my friends to be my tattoo mentor. She was delighted, recommended I make an appointment with her favorite tattoo artist, and went with me that day.

The visit to Vintage Tattoo took about an hour or so and was an adventure in itself.

Now I have a beautiful tattoo of one of Abba Joseph’s opening hands to remind me I can set aside what I think limits me and become all flame.

My keepsake has given me opportunities to share my story with a living illustration. It does not collect dust, never gets lost, and does not take up any extra space.

Admit One

The Egg