Tuesday, August 31, 2010


At Blackwater


are not even a dime a dozen-

they are free,

and each floats and turns

among the branches of the oaks

and the swamp azaleas

looking for another

as, who doesn't?

Oh, blessings

on the intimacy

inside fruition,

be it foxes

or the fireflies

or the dampness inside the petals

of a thousand flowers.

Though Eden is lost

its loveliness

remains in the heart

and the imagination;

he would take her

in a boat

over the dark water;

she would take him

to an island she knows

where the blue flag grows wild

and the grass is deep,

where the birds

perch together,

feather to feather,

on the bough.

And the fireflies,

blinking their little lights,

hurry toward one another.

And the world continues,

God willing.

I with you reader, likely of the Southland and Midwest of the Americas wonder where all the fireflies have gone. Once abundant in my youth, though the world continues, the evenings shine with less brilliance with these insects nearly gone and the stars blurred with light. I am told that we don't have the illuminating insects here because the city sprays for mosquitoes. I don't know how or why exactly for every species, I just know that Eden is lost.

Yes there is a deep sorrow in this, and there is also an affirmation of faith that gives me hope beyond the stark reality of the world we are losing. The faith comes from the ever possible emergence of beauty - that in the imagination of the earth's evolutionary processes and in our human heart and mind, we will never lose Eden. For we are Eden, and when the beauty around us shifts and degrades, we will remember and hopefully, the remnant will give rise to a greater world. Even if only ants and mosquitoes remain in the coming millennia, we, as them and the power and grace of the cosmos, continue on. Even as blown apart bits of matter, there once was a land known as earth and it birthed miracles of life. Continuance is not a necessity of love and beauty, only faith is.

Cormac McCarthy in "The Road" which tells of the ruined earth in an apocalyptic setting ends his book with these words of faith:

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the fl. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculite patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not to be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

What feeds your faith or takes it away?

What the Body Says - August 30, 2010

I was born here, and

I belong here, and

I will never leave.

The blue heron's

gray smoke will flow over me

for years

and the wind will decide

all directions

until I am safely and entirely

something else.

I am thinking this

this winter morning...

of transformation

Of course

I wonder about

the mystery

that is surely up there

in starry space

and how some part of me

will go there at last.

But I am talking now

of the way the body speaks,

and the wind, that keeps saying,

firmly, lovingly:

a little while and then this body

will be stone; then

it will be water; then

it will be air.

I am thinking about yesterday morning when I was swimming in the Ichetucknee river. While in that cold water that carried me and my burdens, I transformed. For the nearly two hours of snorkeling and flowing with all we saw, I knew that I belonged as surely as did the blue heron preening amidst the storks on the river side. This was not a cognitive knowing, for there is no thinking other than marvel and wonder as we swam down river. The body, though, merges into one just as this river will merge into one via the Sante Fe, Suwanne, Gulf, and Atlantic Ocean. With turtles and Ibis at nose level only a few feet away I become bird and reptile. Floating under a cypress tree where an Osprey has just taken an unlucky perch, I become fish. Eyes nearly as wide open as the family of otters snacking on river bottom mussels, I am bivalve and mammal.

Upon exiting the river, reluctantly, I shiver for nearly an hour as my core temperature returns to normal, especially difficult as a wind has come up. This wind wings a message out from my heart of love and gratitude that at least for a short while yesterday I knew no separate self.

Where do you experience flow in your life?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Percy Two

I have a little dog who likes to nap with me.
He climbs on my body and puts his face in my neck.
He is sweeter than soap.
He is more wonderful than a diamond necklace,
which can't even bark.
I would like to take him to Kashmir and the Ukraine,
and Jerusalem and Palestine and Iraq and Darfur,
that the sorrowing thousands might see his laughing mouth.
I would like to take him to Washington, right into
the oval office
where Donald Rumsfeld would crawl out of the president's

and kneel down on the carpet, and romp like a boy.

For once, for a moment, a rational man.

Now that's an idea worth sharing - what might we bright to the influential and the sorrowing multitudes so that they may gain reason, or perhaps better said, let go of reason and let love and joy in? I think that I would bring a parrot to the oval office. There the bird would bow down his head, raising his neck feathers in which President Obama would promptly bury his nose and inhale sacredness. Then he would reaffirm his faith that there is nothing sweeter than life itself, or more beautiful than himself. He might secretly see himself as President Parrot, no more, and no less. Then he would wing himself to Afghanistan, Yemen, Bolivia, or Argentina and offer liberation by now bowing down his head and kneeling on the carpet to the beauty within and the beauty without. Such is my hope here in the dog days of August.

What would you take to Washington?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


What is the good life now? Why,

look here, consider

the moon's white crescent

rounding, slowly, over

the half month to still another

perfect circle-

the shining eye

that lightens the hills,

that lays down the shadows

of the branches of the trees,

that summons the flowers

to open their sleepy faces and look up

into the heavens.

I used to hurry everywhere,

and leaped over the running creeks.

There wasn't

time enough for all the wonderful things

I could think of to do

in a single day. Patience

comes to the bones

before it take root in the heart

as another good idea.

I say this

as I stand in the woods

and study the patterns

of the moon shadows,

or stroll down into the waters

that now, late summer, have also

caught the fever, and hardly move

from one eternity to another.

Here we go again, no answers as we teeter on the brink of relativism. Is there no absolute "good life" but only stages that we go through? The good for some is to hurry and do wonderful things in our earlier years, and for others a welcome idea is patience as we come to the edge of eternity's seduction in the form of decay, dying and death? I do believe that our experiences and our bodily sensations in our daily lives define how we may live the best that we may, offering us insight and wisdom.

I spent many months of my childhood on crutches with a knee gone bad and no current surgical techniques available to fix the injury. Rather abruptly I was forced to slow down in a big way, not able to run, catch balls, and jump over creeks with the other kids. It was in this time that I discovered reading and how much I loved my little parrot companion. Both kept me company during the painful healing and the reoccurring injuries. Eventually the doctors were able to stabilize the knee and I was able to run again, play sports, and take to the woods. I did not lose, however, the reading or the parrot companionship, and both are a big part of the good life for me today. My bones taught me in those years patience, and to accept what the body tells us is good for us, and what is painful. I pray today that I might be open to the very simple messages of my body, that this breath and this heart beat is what connects me to eternity and to you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind

On cold evenings

My grandmother,

With ownership of half her mind-

The other half having flown back to Bohemia

Spread newspapers over the porch floor

So, she said, the garden ants could crawl

As under a blanket, and keep warm,

And what shall I wish for myself,

But, being so struck by the lightning of years,

To be like her with what is left, that loving.

My mother has dementia. My father-in-law does too. In their crazy Alzheimer’s world it’s hard for me to share reality with them. Okay, it’s hard for anyone I believe to have shared realities, but even more so when the mind turns inward on itself, creating cognitive loops that by pass experience and learning. Given that it is in our family, my spouse and I wonder what our fading years will look like. Will we be who’ve we always have been, but even more so? For instance, will we be more loving and caring, or more angry and afraid? When we have so little left, will we be willing to give it to others? I don’t know the answer to that, and I imagine I will end up being a mix of outward and inward focusing just like I am now. What if, though, I do all I can to rewire my brain and lay down those pathways of compassion and interconnection so that they might endure through dementia? What if I did so now so that pathways of love could endure in the hard times of stress and not getting my needs met that will surely arise as does the sun now as I write? Today I will pick up a newspaper and as usual read it and play the jumble to ward off dementia. When I finish, may I bow deeply as I lay the paper down in gratitude, as if I were giving it to the ants and to the least of these. I may not ward off dementia or stay out of the crazy ward, but I might just see the whole world as my ward, my love.

Do you have any older mentors who have show you the way forward?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Song of Autumn

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Here in Northern Florida we just had a record number of consecutive days over 90 degrees – 49! In that period I imagine there were many people fantasizing about snow, glaciers, and frigid winds. The holy grail of summer is the promise of fall and winter. In that same period I imagine there were many people bowing down in gratitude for the heat and humidity, and how when you go out at night it is as if you are swimming in or held by the earth. Their air smells and feels in its heaviness that it is similar in composition to your own moisture. It is as if every breath in is full of carbon bits, the organic debris of a world that knows no bounds. I am one of these tropicalphiles. I don’t need my frontal cortex to tell me that I am interconnected to all of life – a being both glorious and insignificant. My body knows these truths. In winter, huddled indoors or under layers of clothes, I struggle a bit more to know that I belong. Perhaps that is the way of the great dying back and death of winter, and of human life. It’s not a path so easily known. But I imagine a flock of birds nesting in my body upon the indifferent snow. That, even for one enamored with life and the tropics, is almost enough to have me long for winter, for death.

What does winter symbolize for you?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Lord, my body is not yet a temple,

But only one of your fair fields.

An empty field that nobody wants, at least not yet.

But even here the lily is somewhere,

Sometimes it lifts its head above the grasses,

The daises, the milkweed, the mallow.

And sometimes, like us, it sleeps, or at least

Leans below the blades of the grasses.

Lord, I live as you have made me to live.

I bite hungrily into the peach and the turnip.

I bite, with sorrow, into the calf and the lamb.

I drink the tears of the clouds.

I praise the leaves of the shrub oaks

And the pine trees in their bold coats.

I listen and give thanks to the catbird and the thrush.

Meanwhile, the fox knows where you are.

The bees leave the swamp azalea and fly straight

To the shadow of your face.

Meanwhile my body is rustic and brash.

The world I live in is hedges, and small blossoms.

Lord, consider me, and my earnest work.

A hut I have made, out of the grasses.

Now I build the door, out of all things brash and rustic.

Day and night it is open.

Have you seen it yet, among the grasses?

How it longs for you?

How it tries to shine, like gold?

The very first sermon I ever preached in a Unitarian Universalist church was based on the Christian reading “Consider the Lilies.” In Luke 12: Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Mary’s words speak of her doubts, her questioning faith, or perhaps your doubts and mine? Is it possible to work hard enough that we might be accepted, or better said, that we accept that we are not separate from the glorious whole? We are as noble as the lilies, the grasses, the ravens. Perhaps it is not a matter of work, but faith to live as best we can and know underneath our daily paths, or perhaps to the side, is a field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing. What are we waiting for? Let’s go lie down in the grass and let the fire of love consume us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Book

Lilies – as tall as ourselves and more lovely,

And full of fragrance, and long orange tongues,

And those plaything the bees-stood in

A neighbor’s yard, a thick, ramping

Hedge of them. You could not help but see

That to be beautiful is also to be simple

And brief; is to rise up and be glorious, and then vanish;

Is to be silent but as though a song was in you only it

Hasn’t yet been heard

At least in a garden of real earth and sparrows and wrens,

And people hurrying by, pausing then hurrying on

To the usual daily foolishness that comes to so little

So far as the real things matter: eternity,

The unseen, the unrecognized, the filing of the heart

With goodness, as if it were a hive

In which nothing corrupt could live. And I thought

If any one of them could write

The story of their lives, who wouldn’t

Stand in line and hand over the last of their

Shining money-oh, the very end of their shining money-

To buy it.

In Mary’s poems I often wait for the phrase that clinches at the heart, both wringing it and opening it at the same time. Not all poems cause this reaction, but most do. Can you guess what phrase brought me the “kick” or the “surprise” that she can still do after nearly 8 months of writing about one of her poems a day? For me, today, I hung my doubts up when she wrote “real things matter…the filing of the heart with goodness, as if it were a hive.” When I read this I resonate and my deepest soul, which is also yours, says, “ah yes, there I see you my friend.” This is the story I long to her in others, and the story I ache to tell, and to live – to spend my days filling my heart with goodness, awareness, love, and yes, all the doubts too must fly in as well. They stretch my heart so that there is even more room for all.

How do you fill your heart with goodness?

Reckless Poem - August 23, 2010

Today again I am hardly myself.

It happens over and over.

It is heaven-sent.

It flows through me

Like the blue wave.

Green leaves-you may believe this or not-

Have once or twice

Burst from the tips of my fingers


Deep in the woods,

In the reckless seizure of spring.

Though, of course, I also know that other song,

The sweet passion of one-ness.

Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the tumbled pine seeds she toiled. And I thought: she will never live another life but this one. And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength is she not wonderful and wise? And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything until I came to myself.

And still, even in those northern woods, on these hills of sand I have flown from the window of myself to become white heron, gray whale, fox, hedgehog, camel. Oh sometimes already my body has felt like he body of a flower~ Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming.

Just last night I was telling my spouse how these days I go to bed thinking of parrots, and get up in the morning thinking of parrots.. It is like an old friend has come to keep me company once again. For many years I had not had much to do with parrots directly, turning my spirit hope to seeing the wisdom and strength of my own species. This took a while, for returning from years working in Central America, my image of myself amongst humans was that of John the Baptist, screaming mad and spitting locusts. This role came to be I suppose because of the harm I had seen done to the earth and her feathered beings, and the subsequent alternating rage and depression. I found it hard to see anything miraculous about humans who consider themselves atop the pyramid, but eventually I did. That accomplished, more or less and as much as anyone can be fully accepting of our kind, I spend more and more of my days and thoughts back in the avian world. Parrots are not just a flapping and screaming species, nor are humans. Though alas dear heart, some days I long to exchange wisdom for recklessness, and squawk out pure defiance, and yes joy. Perhaps I do as these words sprout from my fingers.

Who are you when you are not yourself?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Over the Hill She Came

Over the hill she came, her long legs very scarcely

touching the ground, the cups of her ears listening, with obvious pleasure,

to the wind as it stroked the dark arms of the pines;

once or twice she lingered and browsed some moist patch

of half-wrapped leaves, then came along to where I was-or nearly-

and then, among the thousand bodies of the trees, their splashes of light and their shadows, she was gone;

and I, who was heave that day with thoughts as small as my whole life would ever be, and especially

compared to the thousand shining trees, gave thanks to whatever sent her in my direction that I might see, and strive to be,

as clearly she was, beyond sorrow, soft-lipped angel walking on air.

I see a deer coming over the hill and imagine her internal dialog, perhaps expressed as brain firings of emotions, images, and memories.

"Oh there is a human there, so peaceful there, so safe, so centered. I wish I could be like her, but I am full of sorrow. My mate was taken by a hunter last year, my sister died of tuberculosis, and my fawn never made it across that country road. There is plenty to eat this day, but that last winter I really wanted to just curl up in the snow and join my family in the Great Forest in the Sky. But now I look up to that sky, and although I cannot see the reasons for such great suffering, I do see my cousin the trees who offer me shade and my brother sun who warms my back in the early morning hours. If I could but write, as does this poet, I would share with the world the love that grows in my heart, though the winds of time threaten to take the memories of those I have cuddled within the thicket from me. Let the wind come then, and may I fly upon it, leaving behind for a moment the loss and the pain. Perhaps she'll write of our encounter and guide the world towards the joy that comes when we each strive to be the other and share our gifts. She writes, I pine, and together we go beyond sorrow."

What helps you go beyond sorrow?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Poet With His Face in His Hands

You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn't need any more of that sound.

So if you're going to do it and can't stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can't hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines of rocks and water to the place where the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that jubilation and water-fun and you can stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can drip with despair all afternoon and still, on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush, puffing out its spotted breast, will sing of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

I am reminded by this poem of a goodly number of years which I spent with my face in hands, sobbing with regrets and loss. I tried to stifle the sound, for indeed, who wants to hear any more of that sound? I had seen such senseless tragedy in Guatemala when I lived there - forests burned, people murdered, children abandoned to disease and ignorance, parrot nests felled, and birds poached to approaching extinction. Some days it seemed that if I even heard the word Guatemala, conservation, or parrot my throat would get tight and I would be altered in a downward decline for the rest of the day. Part of what brought me out of that dark time was to go ahead and let the despair take me to where it would, however, I would remind myself that I was going through such pain because of the beautiful song of the people and the Yellow-naped Amazon parrots of Central America. It was that perfect, stone-hard beauty which allowed me to hold the tragic as well.

What helps you hold the tragic?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wild, Wild

This is what love is:

The dry rose bush the gardener, in his pruning, missed

Suddenly bursts into bloom.

A madness of delight; an obsession.

A holy gift, certainly,

But often, alas, improbable.

Why couldn’t Romeo have settled for someone else?

Why couldn’t Tristan and Isolde have refused

The shining cup

Which would have left peaceful the whole kingdom?

Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests

Of our lives.

Over and over Faust, standing in the garden, doesn’t know

Anything that’s going to happen, he only sees

The face of Marguerite, which is irresistible.

And wild, wild sings the bird.

Compulsive, wild love can destroy kingdoms and lead us into our doom? It’s hard to see how an out of season blooming bush can bring mayhem and death and suffering, such as the stories to which Mary refers. But now I’m thinking of a bird in a rose bush, a purple finch mistaking this plant for one where she can feed. What is it like to be her, hungry, desperate to feed the chicks back home. She’s distracted though for a moment by the pretty flowers , which cause the bird to sing and forget for a moment the responsibility of chicks, her mate, and the flock. Then an un pair bonded male hears the song and comes to her, where their tryst leads to a flurry of feathers that some might call betrayal, others love, and even others, might say, well, it’s just evolutionary good sense to keep several possible mates in waiting in case catastrophe comes to nest and original mate. Or to help raise the chicks. Or to fertilize the eggs with diverse genes.

Love, out of control, doth seem a chaotic virtue. So powerful, so unplanned, so rift with possibility to bring life, connection, and social bonds that can feed the heart. I wonder then if there is any way to rein love in so that nests and nations may also be adequately nourished while love wreaks havoc. I believe our hearts can hold much love, and that with training and intention we can channel that love into a feeding of the world. But it’s a tricky thing to live so wildly; to let say that fragrant flower outside my window keep me from my chores, my focus of the day, and the writing of this blog. Now where was I….ah yes, in love.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Don’t think just now of the trudging forward of thought,

But of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It’s summer, you never saw such a blue sky,

And here they are, those white birds with quick wings,

Sweeping over the waves, chattering and plunging,

Their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes

Happy as little nails

The years to come-this is a promise-

Will grant you ample time

To try the difficult steps in the empire of thought

Where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,

Than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens

Over the rolling, salt brightness. Listen,

Maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world

In the clasp of attention, isn’t the perfect prayer,

But it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,

Is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

But of pure submission. Tell me, what else

Could beauty be for? And now the tide

Is at its very crown,

The white birds =sprinkle down,

Gathering up the loose silver rising

As if weightless. It isn’t instruction, or parable.

It isn’t for any vanity or ambition

Except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It’s only a nimble frolic

Over the waves. And you find, for hours,

You cannot even remember the questions

That weigh so in your mind.

I wonder what beauty is for? Why did we evolve with such a close affinity to what is beautiful in this world, or to make things of beauty? I have heard some say we move towards beauty so that we can stand to be in the world. Otherwise the pain and the loss would be too great. Some trigger needs to soothe the aching brain that must hold how harm is all around us, some of it performed by our very words and hands. This leads me to suggest indeed religion, or meditation, or nature walks, or whatever intentional practice you cultivate for the awareness of interconnection, is perhaps an opiate of the masses. We adhere ourselves to faith claims of interdependence so that we know we will always survive and all we see before us continues on in one form or another. Said another way, if we as isolated ego driven individuals never exist, how can we disappear?

Here I spin in the realm of doubt and thought, and right now, I see the sun filtering through the trees in the nearly fall like air. Soon I will be holding a cup of coffee graciously prepared by my hosts, and then have a walk down by Lake Erie before heading to a veterinary clinic to watch how people fumble with their love of birds and their draw towards their beauty. Perhaps my faith is misguided, but I know not what else to do but to submit to these blessings, this merger of life coming to me and through me. I am a tern going fishing.

What do you have faith in? Where do you doubt?