Last week I had the privilege of celebrating another birthday.

I remember my mother telling me when I was very young, that every time someone has a birthday, it means that they have twirled and spun around the sun another whole year. I thought it was beautiful mythology at first, a fairytale, something my dear mom made up to make things more special. And then came the day I understood and learned that it really was true. A sphere of dirt and flowers and shoes and snowmen really did dance around a ball of fire and flame. Surely it was too good- too fantastic- to be true? But, it is real and true and I've spun around the sun for 24 years now.

Holly, here's some verses for your new year. Take them to heart, self. And try to walk boldly and simply and live "with a lyrical heart."

...I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

{M. Oliver}


i thank You God for this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any- lifted from the no
of all nothing- human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

{e.e. cummings}
. . .

. . .


All the quick notes
Mozart didn't have time to use
before he entered the cloud-boat

are falling now from the beaks
of the finches
that have gathered from the joyous summer

into the hard winter
and, like Mozart, they speak of nothing
but light and delight,

though it is true, the heavy blades of the world
are still pounding underneath.
And this is what you can do too, maybe,

if you live simply and with a lyrical heart
in the cumbered neighborhoods or even,
as Mozart sometimes managed to, in a palace,

offering tune after tune,
making some hard-hearted prince
prudent and kind, just by being happy.

{Mary Oliver}

"True simplicity is not the rejection of beauty in our surroundings, but the refusal to allow concern for things to clutter our minds."

In my quest on how to live loudly but quietly, freely and yet simply in this cluttered world, I've stumbled upon a book that has truly inspired me. In this age of technological astuteness, accumulation of things and material affluence, of status and celebrity and relentless pursuit of personal security, I think-- and I'm just making a wild guess-- that perhaps the majority of us have forgotten to live for life's sake. Maybe? Quite often, at least? And with that I think we've nearly forgotten to find "joy from a sense of being, not on having," as quoted by Damaris Parker-Rhodes, in the book Plain Living, A Quaker Path to Simplicity, by Catherine Whitmire. Simplicity is a "protest [against extravagance] and must... be seen as a testimony against involvement with things which tend to dilute our energies and scatter our thoughts, reducing us to lives of triviality and mediocrity," observes Whitmire.

"We must set light to our possessions lest they come to possess us. Used as sales-talk in our glossy magazines, the phrase 'gracious living' has become a synonym for making a house an end in itself rather than a home to live in. Truly gracious living is a by-product of gracious thinking and doing, and in material things is expressed in 'what is simple and beautiful.' And true simplicity is not the rejection of beauty in our surroundings, but the refusal to allow concern for things to clutter our minds..." (Edgar Castle, 1961)

"Simplicity does not mean drabness or narrowness but is essentially positive, being the capacity for selectivity in one who holds attention on the goal. Thus simplicity is an appreciation of all that is helpful towards living as children of the living God." (Whitmire)

. . .


The other day my sister and I took a few hours to rummage through some nearby antique stores. I particularly was there on an errand, in search of a darling, blue, men's sailor jacket that my eleven year old brother and I had found a few weeks before. He had tried to convince me that it would fit him perfectly-- and that he'd wear it all the time. "All the time, everyday!" He said. It did fit him reasonably, and after all it was just for dress-up, just to play around in. (I love the fact that at almost twelve he and his brothers can be seen romping outside in their camo or their pioneer clothes or their self-styled ninja outfits almost daily. I love it!) We ended up leaving that day without it and he was very dismayed. But, my sister and I found the jacket, hanging on a rack next to a mink coat and a military jacket and I am sure my brother will be quite excited to unwrap it on Christmas, I am sure.

At that same store, I found a glass bowl filled with crystals or "prisms" that are usually found dangling on lamps. All I could think of was Pollyanna, where she strung them from her walls and windows and they created a mess of live looking, glittering rainbow reflections. "I wonder if I should buy a bunch of these crystals and string them across my bedroom window like in the movie Pollyanna?" I asked of the elderly woman behind the counter. She raised her eyebrows. "Oh, indeed," she said, "isn't that in a movie?" I nodded, "Yes, in the movie Pollyanna," I said. "Yep," she answered as she handed me the receipt for the jacket. I didn't end up buying any prisms. Maybe next time I'll convince myself to.


"Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning."

{Thirst by Mary Oliver, emphasis added}


And the wind shall say: "Here were decent godless people: their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls."

I've been reading a lot of the poets lately. Maybe its the stirring of the orange leaves tossed upon the roads, or perhaps its because I recently bought a whole new stack of delicious books of poetry and prose, some famous and some not, from Amazon and they all happened to arrive last week. Perhaps.

Here's a few captivating portions from T.S. Eliot's work, 'The Rock', excerpts from part I & III; published in 1934. The italics signify my favorite lines.

. . .

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

A Cry from the North, from the West and from the south
Whence thousands travel daily to the timekept City;
Where My Word is unspoken,
In the land of lobelias and tennis flannels
The rabbit shall burrow and the thorn revisit,
The nettle shall flourish on the gravel court,
And the wind shall say: 'Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.'

..A thousand policemen directing the traffic
Cannot tell you why you come or go...

When the stranger says: 'What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?'
What will you answer? 'We all dwell together
To make money from each other?' or 'This is a community?'
And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.
O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the stranger,
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

. . .


To eat, to breathe
to beget
Is this all there is
Chance configuration of atom against atom
........... of god against god
I cannot believe it.
Come, Christian Triune God who lives,
Here am I
Shake the world again.

{Francis Schaeffer}


I've noticed something about myself: my friendliness can be quite fair weathered.

I can be friendly and benevolent when I want to and when I feel like it, but usually when I don't- I am not. I do it all rather unconsciously, perhaps that's why I've just started noticing this pattern.

One day my heart is bursting with benevolence for mankind and life is beautiful. And then... there are the days that I saunter through the store, ignoring the well meaning, ill dressed cashier, deliberately rolling my eyes at that noisy, screaming child and it's helpless mother. When I catch myself in the middle of such pretentious absorption- I'm a little mortified and ashamed. How on earth did I go from being Wendy Darling one day to Medusa the next?

I don't want to make a deliberate, forced, un-genuine point of practicing friendliness, but I know real love won't just flourish entirely on its own. So, recently I'm trying to keep self-preoccupied, ugly Medusa at bay. She wastes my time and misrepresents the love I want to show the world and she distorts who I really am. What I've begun to do is to simply just smile; to smile when I don't want to. Yes, its elementary. But, truly, it is a gem of an idea. And more than being a nice idea, it works. There is just something mystical about showing kindness to people, to strangers, to the world. It haunts you with satisfaction, especially if the love you show is reciprocated, then life becomes even more welcome and sacred.

Every time you smile at someone,
it is an action of love, a gift to
that person, a beautiful thing.

{Mother Teresa


I think God was very kind when he gave us the seasons.

I wonder just how bored we'd end up being if life was one long summer, a perpetual sunny summer. I know right now my mother is strongly disagreeing with me, as she maintains that life would be so much more delicious without rain and winter, and most likely that if she ever was planted on a tropical island for the rest of her life, she'd be perfectly happy. To some that might sound like a novel idea-- "always summer"-- how lovely. I like summer very much, but I cannot help but realize how blasé it would become to us if the sun was always shining and glaring, the heat always penetrating, and the clouds never hanging above, comfortingly, softly, strongly. I think the reason I adore summer so much is because I appreciate it after the rain subsides and the puddles evaporate. I adore fall just as much because summer has unknowingly nurtured inside me a hope and craving for wind and cold and umbrellas (although I never use one, but the concept is pretty) and mossy things and ferns and windshield wipers and freezing, frosty mornings and evenings. Each year the seasons unfold with a story of its own-- and while each one is similar to the other-- every year the portrayal of the story is still specialized, unique.

Thank you, God, for all our seasons. I am so glad I don't live in a box.

And thank you for the elongated shadows and the animated, cold, apple air of Autumn.


To speak analogously is to admit that you can't say it directly; you really can't say it at all; it's outside the realm of proven fact. But it is not a coincidence that some of the greatest poetry in the English language is in the form of the sonnet. The haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry today: what could be more structured?

[Once I was giving a lecture] and the students talked loudly about wanting to be free to dance, to make love, to be themselves. So do I. So we left literature and talked about the body, and I kept asking questions: what is it in you which gives you this freedom? Finally one of the young men, with great reluctance, pulled out the word: skeleton. It is our bones, our structure, which frees us to dance, to make love. Without our structure we would be an imprisoned, amorphous blob of flesh, incapable of response. The amoeba has a minimum of structure, but I doubt if it has much fun.



Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many placed is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

{C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory}


There is a time that comes, sometimes brazenly and loud, but usually softly and unnoticeable, stealing up behind, whispering over one's shoulder. I remember when that time came for my great-grandmother. Dementia and a tired body slowly over took her and so I began to drive over to my grandma's house, whom she lived with, and take care of her several days a week. I remember bathing and feeding her. It was considerably hard at the beginning to intimately take care of someone who you've known forever, someone who had been healthy, physically and mentally, not too long before. Her mind came and went during those days. I still remember the time she panicked while I bathed her, yelling at me, "Get out of here you ugly boy!" I felt such pity for her; what horror there is in not being able to control yourself or your mind! "Nana, it's just me," I'd tell her. But, she didn't recognize me anymore.

A couple days ago she passed away. In her last days she had steadily declined, deteriorating rapidly, having contracted an appalling gum disease, creating abscesses which exuded blood constantly. She was a shadow, an almost literal shell of who she was, or used to be. On heavy medication and in a nebulous state of unconsciousness she seemed to wait, anticipating being released.

And so, finally she was.

From watching her life unwind over the years, and becoming acquainted with the residents at her nursing facility, and just from general observation, I find myself hopelessly disgusted; bitterly disgusted with degeneration. Hateful of entropy. Despising of broken, moth-eaten death.

And still, out of the frost distorted ground, I find pillars of courage standing, solemnly.

My mother spoke with many of the nurses who attended my great-grandmother and she re-counted to me their heroic biographies. One RN related that she grew up with a mother who was a nurse at a nursing home; she said her mother delighted in her work. Thus she grew up wanting to be a nurse and work there as well, because of her mother's example. Another nurse said,

"Some people love to work at birthing centers, with babies. But I prefer to work with the people leaving the world. It is just as much an honor to work with them as with those just entering the world. It is a privilege."

Surrounded by ugliness, that day when my great-grandma died, so much beauty shone around, that one could have been blinded by it. There was such a bright and colored contrast between death and darkness and the insatiable joy of loving another person. Why then is there cause for sadness, when such joy is painted like a infinite mural, teaching us how to really love?


I was driving home from the store yesterday, listening to the radio. On one of the regular stations there was the most ignobly ridiculous discussion taking place, but I guess since it was evening it was permissible, being after hours. Anyway, whatever. The discussion was about the unconditional right of a woman to have frequent one night stands under the guise of "liberation" and equality with men. Of course, this isn't new, but just listening to that gal trying to defend and advocate habitual-- but not too habitual-- sexual experiences under the pretense of "equality" was rather fascinating. She explained that one of the disadvantages to this freeing concept was the fact that sexual intimacy "bonds individuals emotionally" (duh) and in an effort to avoid that nasty aspect of the one night stand scenario the woman has to be very careful getting in and out of there, quickly. But still she encouraged it saying, "Our culture has changed! No longer is it unacceptable for men and women to go out seeking an occasional sexual experience. No longer is it viewed as risqué or indecent, especially for women." Oh, what a relief. I was thinking our culture was getting a little too moral there for a while.

What I found so riveting was her lack of orientation in her reasoning, she adamantly wanted to demonstrate that all "women are just as much in control of their bodies as men are," yet she wound up floundering around in the sea of sexual wantonness in efforts to back up her allegiance. The discussion oscillated between "yes, go and get 'em tiger" and "but not too often;" she seemed to know there was supposed to be a balance someplace, but didn't quite know where and thus ended up promoting blatant promiscuity. I found that I wasn't just frustrated with her rather loose concept of virtue, but that she phlegmatically dumbed down sex to such a primordial level. She tore down the sacredness, the essence of such intimacy and flung it in the dog's bowl and rang the bell for dinner. As she desperately tried to make her point, she ended up rather illustrating how foolish and unbeautiful the concept of illicit relationships are. Sometimes I can't help but wish we were living back in the Victorian era.


O God! You ask the deepest darkest things.
You blind with light more frightening than dark.
You tell me: Fly! And then you give no wings.
Your sharp sword pierces as it hits the mark.
You gave me love as human as earth
And earth to earth you've gone as all must go.
So we are torn apart twixt tears and mirth
And where your you has gone I do not know.
Oh, God! your loneliness came into flesh.
You taught us love as you let all love go,
And with your life our lives are deep enmeshed.
We know you as we know we do not know.
Oh, God! you ask us all to be like you,
And what you love will truly be made new.

-Madeleine L'Engle


The Wetlands

Near twilight I saw the eburnean swans weaving in and out of the rushes. I watched them swim, ducking, heads and feathers wet; nonchalantly glancing at me as they plaited little paths in the still lake. Behind them sat the monarchy of trees, their holy arms outstretched, moving un-anxiously in the small wind. Above us all, suspended on a string, lay the broad, glassy expanse of mist and haze and the breath of the birds.


A traveler on a dusty road
Strewed acorns on the lea;
And one took root and sprouted up,
And grew into a tree.
Love sought its shade at evening time,
To breathe its early vows;
And Age was pleased, in heights of noon,
To bask beneath its boughs.

(Charles MacKay)

It was Seneca, the Roman statesman, who wrote that wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. No selfless act is insignificant. I was thinking of this today, in terms of the aged. Sadly, how often I've seen an older person, slow with age and infirmity, looked down upon with disdain by a fresh and young face. Perhaps instead of becoming impatient with the elderly woman attempting to open the door, perhaps, just perhaps, you could graciously open and hold the door for her?

I am reminded of a story by the Brothers Grimm that stirred my little heart when I was a child. The story was about a feeble old woman whose husband died and left her alone, and so she went to live with her son and his wife and their little daughter. Every day her sight dimmed and her hearing grew worse and sometimes at dinner "her hands trembled so badly the peas rolled off her spoon or the soup ran from her cup." Her son and his wife couldn't help but be annoyed, so one day after she knocked over a glass of milk, they decided to do something about it. They ended up setting a small table for her in the corner, next to the broom closet. She sat there alone, "looking with tear-filled eyes across the room at the others." The story goes on to tell that one evening right before dinner the little daughter was on the floor playing with her blocks and her father asked what she was making.
"I'm building a little table for you and mother," she smiled, "so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big."
I think this story will become more and more meaningful to us the older we grow. While we ourselves are young, we must teach ourselves and our youth to appreciate and respect the aged. We must not slip out of opportunities to encourage our elders-- we need to show them our love when we can. I wonder what our youth of today will think when they become advanced in age, I wonder how their youth will treat them?


A child learns early there is a fashionable and an unfashionable in the world, an ugly and a pretty, a valued and an unvalued. Where this system comes from, God only knows, but it is rarely questioned, and though completely illogical and agreed upon by everyone as evil, it remains in play, commanding our emotions as a possession. It isn't something taught in us by our parents; it is something that comes naturally, as though a radioactive kind of tragedy happened, screwing up our souls. Adulterated or policed, the system can grow to something more civilized, but no less dominant as a drive of nature.

Some people get the worst of it, its true. You grow up being told that all people are created equal, but they aren't. Some people are born into better homes than others, and some people look better than others, and some people are smarter and some people run faster.

I get this feeling sometimes that after the world ends, when God destroys all our buildings and our flags, we will wish we had seen everybody as equal, that we had eaten dinner with prostitutes, held them in our arms, opened up spare rooms for them and loved them and learned from them. [When I was young] I didn't know any of these things. I didn't know it didn't matter what a person looked like, how much money they made or whether or not they were cool. I didn't know that cool was a myth and that one person was just as beautiful and meaningful as another. Like I said, it felt important to climb the social ladder, it felt important to defend our identities, it felt as though we were saving our own lives.

[d. miller]


I could hear them giggling and chattering away, forever. So, I peeked around the tall shelving of the biography section of the bookstore and saw them: two little girls, one with curls and one without, both holding straws and tormenting each other with them, blowing through them, and covering their faces and laughing. Their mother was evidently absorbed in the search of a book and didn't seem to notice them very much, or their indelicate, un-bookstore behavior. I didn't mind though, and so turned back to my side of the shelf and began perusing the titles again, absentmindedly listening to their childish conversation. After a while of loud whispering and giggling, they suddenly rounded the corner talking excitedly and I glanced up. There they stood, beaming with pride, with their straws stuck carefully in their teeth, making the straw hang from their mouths, ridiculously. And the little girl with curls, with a distinct lisp from that piece of plastic dangling from her teeth, said with much dignity and conviction:

"Yeth! I think I will definitely be a dentilist when I grow up."


I've been considering love, humble love. Such a love is capable of penetrating a cold world, for its strength is incalculable, it is marvelous, beautiful. For in such love we find the clearest and most refined reflection of His love; such servant-hearted devotion. But, it is hard for our human hearts to love in such humility. It is hard for us to love at all, sometimes, and yet to love in a humble way is the hardest of all. I forget to love so often in my everyday exchanges. And if I remember and happen to feel in the mood to love, I do, but then that really isn't love at all, least of all a humble love. "For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but forever. Everyone can love occasionally, even the wicked can," wrote the author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. He described such all-embracing humility as "an ocean... flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth." In his book, The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky recounts a scene wherein a man of society flew in a rage and gave his orderly two bloody blows to his face. After the quieting of his "brutal humor" the story continues,
"I hid my face in my hands, fell on my bed and broke into a storm of tears... That is what a man has been brought to, and that was a man beating a fellow creature! What a crime! It was as if a sharp dagger had pierced me through... And I remembered my brother and what he said on his deathbed to his servants: 'My dear ones, why do you wait on me, why do you love me, am I worth your waiting on me?'"
Oh, why is it so easy to hate and so hard to love? Why is it much easier to speak in pride and harshness, strike out in anger, or brandish violence and yell at that stupid driver who obviously doesn't know how to merge? I am trying to make love a top priority in my daily life. But, its easier to make my well being a priority rather than someone else's. I have enough to worry about, keeping my life together, do I need the added exercise? I admit, I'd much rather focus on my individuality, my security, my peace. But, is peace secured by a silent mouth? By an individualistic, partially loving, nonspeaking heart? It can't be, for peace is attained by the great opposite-- by the opening of one's mouth and heart in all-compassing brotherly love, and by the death of one's personal status and advantage. "Sometimes even if he has to do it alone, and his conduct seems to be crazy, a man must set an example, and so draw men's souls out of their solitude, and spur them to some act of brotherly love, that the great idea may not die" (Dostoevsky).

. . .

"What!" they asked, "are we to make our servants
sit down on the sofa and offer them tea? And I answered them:
"Why not, sometimes at least." Everyone laughed.
Their question was frivolous and my answer was not clear;
but the thought in it was to some extent right."

-The Brothers Karamazov

. . .


Some natural tears they
dropped, but wiped them
The world was all before
them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and
Providence their guide,
They, hand in hand, with
wandering steps and slow,
through Eden took their
solitary way.

John Milton (Paradise Lost)


Do you ever glance at the person in the next car while driving? One time I passed a woman who was weeping uncontrollably. One hand held the steering wheel while the other cradled her head. She ended up getting off at the exit for the hospital; I wonder what happened, what news she received. I pray for her still. The other day I passed a man who was smiling, grinning, by himself, alone; just smiling at the road. Perhaps he was listening to the radio. Maybe he was thinking of a funny memory. Or maybe he was simply happy, just because.


Yesterday I found myself in the card isle of my local grocery store. I stood there, with a furrowed brow, opening and closing and opening and closing cards. This Sunday is Father's Day, and while I generally love creating my own cards, I thought perhaps my dad would more likely enjoy a more masculine one, you know a store bought, generic, boring one. And so for far too long, there I was, standing in front of two thousand cards. People came and went next to me; perusing a card or two and then walking off. I, on the other hand, must have opened every single card there, I know I must have. It's not exactly that I'm a card snob (which I am) but with the whole concept of spending 5 dollars for a piece of paper, you know, I want that piece of paper to be at least likable. However, I must have held too high of expectations. Although, some of them were kind of cute, one or two were actually funny and a few were only semi horrible, like: " To my wonderful Father, my hero... whom I never want to see in tights." And so I waded through every dad-burning-something-on-the-barbecue illustration and every "You gave me a horrible upbringing, but I guess I love you a little anyway" quips. I looked through every couch lounging, beer bellied, glazed eyed cartoons and went through all the, "Who is the number one dad, the best dad, ever? YOU!!" greetings. In the end I bought a simple card and refrained from doing what I really wanted to do-- to tell the people who kept shuffling up that, "Um, there really aren't any good cards here. Actually, they are all pretty lame. Here, this one's okay and this one too, but you shouldn't waste your time, really, just go make one." But, I didn't. Because, the people next to me ended up laughing at the card I thought was the most pitiful. So, I just walked away.

I have nothing against cards, really. But I had a terrible feeling that something wasn't right here. There was just something a little off with the way fathers were being presented in most of those cards. Yet, the sad thing is, those cards are a mirror of reality, more so of our recent reality. Now, I know many, many amazing fathers (including mine, love ya Dad!) but I also know, have seen, and have witnessed many sad and terrible excuses of fatherhood, and... it seems that this is becoming rampant. Where have our true, dignified, loving and self-sacrificing men gone?

I doubt if many people would even know how Father's Day was originated. The idea of such a day was proposed by a Mrs. John B. Dodd in 1909. She was trying to find a way to honor her father, William Smart, who was a Civil War veteran. He was widowed when his wife (the mother of Mrs. Dodd) died during the childbirth of their sixth child. Mr. Smart was thus left with five children and a newborn to raise alone. When Mrs. Dodd became an adult she realized the strength and selflessness her father had demonstrated in raising her and her brothers and sisters as a single parent. Now that is a man who deserves honor. Not those Homer Simpson look-alikes I found snoring on the card isle.


Thomas doubted: seeing, then believed;
Touched the wounded hands, the pierced side,
Knew once for all his Lord and God; received
The Word and taught it. While I, Lord, in my pride
Am shown your light and still trip over doubt,
Seeking in foolishness to understand
The infinite with my finite wit, am out,
Then, of my moral mind; reject your hand
At the same moment that I hold it tight.
Knowing, I know not all things I know;
Hearing, I hear not; seeing, seek the light;
Standing, fly skywards; running, am too slow.
........ Here in captivity where my song is wrung
........ Help me to find again my native tongue.



His was a face ill shaven, with unsuccessfully cut hair, messy looking; but not in the modish-took-hours-to-look-messy-look. His clothing was poorly fitting, his mannerisms negligent of refinement. The young woman next to him I perceived was his girlfriend. Her appearance was similar, her language uncultivated, crass; her pajama pants faded. The couple caught my curiosity, and so I watched them for a few seconds, as the young woman hung on his arm with a happy grin on her face. He whispered and they laughed and he gently embraced her as they walked, side by side. My curiosity led me to harshly wonder: They apparently love each other. But how does she love someone like him? And how could he love her? Look at them. Really. Their love just couldn't be all that resplendent. I doubt they could even spell "resplendent." Such shallow thoughts. Did I really think in those few seconds, that love had the potential to be inferior when embraced by someone that I regarded as unlovely? We all breathe and live. We are all humans. And love is still love. It is love there, it is love here. For love transcends time and space and history. It transcends ignorance, culture, wealth, intelligence. Agape love, Philia love-- all love. Above all, love perfectly transcends beauty-- it exists independent of limits of loveliness, it completely disregards beauty and splendor, ugliness, lowliness.

I needed only to look at the cross again, to have fully learned that.


. . .

What is it that I love in loving You? You are the light that shines into my soul which no physical place can contain, where time does not snatch away the lovely sound, where no breeze disperses the sweet fragrance, where no eating diminishes the food, and where there is an embrace that can't be torn asunder. This is what I love when I love my God.

What is this God? I asked the earth, and it answered, "I am not He." Everything in the earth made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things, and they replied, "we are not your God; seek above us." I asked the fleeting winds, and the entire air with its inhabitants answered, "I am not God." I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; and they answered, "Neither are we the God whom you seek."

I replied to all these things that surround me: "You have told me about my God, that you are not He. Tell me something about Him." With a loud voice they all cried out, "He made us." My question had come from observing them, and their reply came from their beauty of order.

Isn't this beauty of form visible to all whose senses are unimpaired? Why, then, does it not say the same things to all? Animals, both great and small, see but are unable to question its meaning. Their senses are not endowed with the reason that would enable them to judge the evidence their senses report.

-St. Augustine

. . .


My new lovely, big window was recently installed.
And the Plum tree outside is in full bloom. Bliss.


We are not only conscious of it, but every one of our senses are aware of it. Of a pervasive unlit-ness; of this present and infiltrating Cimmerian darkness. It is recognized even as we look out our window: at the ugly rotting leaves or the tilting dying Oak, or the graffiti which mars the wall. We hear it on the streets: crude language, horrible patois, the distortion of canon, the misuse of beautiful words-- the misuse of beautiful meaning. It is shockingly visible everywhere, especially promulgated through media: slandering, the absence of Truth, the lack of peace, abortion, death, the abuse of sex and sexuality, war, nihilism, murder, thievery, greed and the obsession of self. This darkness is everything that beauty and light isn't. It is everything that goodness and purity is not. It is an epidemic; a raging flood. It's something we don't like to acknowledge very often. Because it terrifies.

[We are] afraid of the dark-- not afraid to go up the stairs in the physical darkness of night, but afraid of the shadows of another kind of dark, the darkness of nothingness, of hate, of evil.

So we rush around trying to light candles. Some are real: books are candles for me; so is music; so is friendship. Others blow up in our faces, like too much alcohol and too many sleeping pills or pep pills. Or hard drugs. Or sex where there isn't any love.

I think it was Toynbee who said that we are a sick society because we have refused to accept death and infinity. Our funeral practices open themselves up to satire, but they are only symptom. There's an insurance commercial on the radio which says, "if something should happen to you," with the implication that without some unforeseen accident of course you'll never die. (L'Engle)

For me, my candles are books and music as well. But a greater light illuminates this great darkness for me, and my shuddering is less for my security is strong:
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Sometimes I still find it desperately, nearly impossible to live with such havoc and distortion of peace and love and ravaging the world. But I know that this darkness creates in us a search for purpose and meaning in the midst of it. I think it was Carl Jung who said, "Death is psychologically as important as birth. Shrinking away from it is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose." Death and dying and darkness and fear-- these shadows prove to us that there really is light.
"The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16)

. . .


On the absurdity of feminist

Her unisex temper would worsen
If as chairman she wasn't 'chair
She required that we ban
Those damned suffixes, 'man'--
So now she's become a wo

-S. Vanauken


One spring one of my students showed me her notebook,
in which she had written, "The only good artist is a dead one.
All artists should be shot after they have finished producing.
If they are allowed to live, they will start commenting on their works,
and I have never heard and artist say anything intelligent
about what he has done...

Beethoven had the right idea: he played one of his sonatas
for someone, and when he had finished, the person said,
'That's very nice, but what does it mean?'
And Beethoven sat down and played the whole thing over."

(A Circle of Quiet)


Rebirth? It must be a process of growth occurring after a death? Or, at least, a near death. I was thinking of that late last night; the revival of one's soul and health after being stagnant, moribund. My little ceramic pot sitting on my window sill holds a flowery plant. I am a horrible botanist- I have no idea what it is. But its blooms are a lovely shade of pink and it's very pretty. I am also a horrible gardener, but have tried to take care of it properly: I've watered it and talked to it. (The ferns and other things I have growing in various pots next to it are doing fairly well also. Except for the Mint, who is thoroughly dead, which is sad since it smelled delicious. It was supposed to be planted outdoors I was told, but I didn't think it mattered that much.) Because of my poor plant tending skills my little pink plant has had a pretty rough life. And the other day, it looked dreadful; definitely worse than usual. It's smooth stems were painfully drooping over and most of the petals had fallen off or had turned a ghastly ashen color. It looked as if it was gasping for breath-- its last dying breaths. I watered it again; which is my instinctive cure-all for every plant-ish kind of growing thing. But now it looked even worse, it was gasping for breath while melting in a puddle of water. A couple of mornings later I was very surprised to see it was alive. And- not only was it alive- but its stems were gracefully standing upright, with the delicate pink returned to its petals, as it gently bent towards the sun shining through the window. It looked marvelous. Strong. And so, that's what has drawn my mind down the path of contemplating birth, rebirth and regeneration. I wonder if it is true in every case-- if the life one lives after regeneration, is more beautiful than the life one had before?


"The bar silver and the arms still lie, for all that I know, where Flint buried them; and certainly they shall lie there for me. Oxen and wainropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I the surf booming about its coasts, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: 'Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!'"

-Treasure Island


. . .

I am fond of encircling myself with the young: infants, children, bright faces- mostly ignorant of their existence- aware only of beauty, color, of laughter, of eating candy, of love. Perhaps one reason I do this, is my unconscious attempt to disguise my own terror of death and dying and of coping with it. I don't know. All I know is that- as a childhood quote comes echoing back to me, from the movie Pollyanna- "Death comes unexpectedly." The death of someone I know was felt last week. That reality was ushered in by the words of a friend who informed me, "___ died today." How can a whole life be extinguished in that one sentence- in that one single word- "died"? People pass away often. Yet when that death lands lands nearer home than the others that's when it is felt. And it hurts. "There is always the memento mori, the realization that death is contagious; it is contracted the moment we are conceived." (L'engle) This week, this Easter week, I am more conscious than ever that "all flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flowers of the field," that "man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow," but that "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ... But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

. . .


I listen to the news and hear of war and rumor of war, of crime and wanton destruction and loss of humanity, and think of Ionesco's brilliant play, Rhinoceros. It starts out in a small French village on a Sunday morning; everything is normal and ordinary; the people in the village are very much like the people we know, like us. Then a rhinoceros strolls through the village square, and this first rhinoceros is like a presage of plague, because the people of the village start, one by one, turning into rhinos; they are willing to give up being their particular selves, to give up being human beings, to become beasts. And one of the character says, 'Oh, why couldn't all this happen in some other country so we could just read about it in the papers?"

Excerpt from A Circle of Quiet


I must confess- growing up scares me. It's not the solemn responsibility of being a respectable and loving adult: citizen, wife, mother or grandmother. Of course some of that holds its own fear and mystery. But rather, I am terrified of losing my youth, of losing this sense of novelty about life, of which I find here in my youth. I may be impetuous and wide-eyed and may on occasion laugh too much, but, how else am I to feel the world? I am afraid as I grow older, my wonder will dissipate, diminishing immensely, leaving me aloof, severely mature with an air about me which mutters, I've seen it all. Of course I will know more of the world later on- for discovery and experience are found and learned over time. But what I don't want is to become like the majority of people I've observed around me- to become like the solemn faced, grey-haired woman who comes in often and orders a soy chai; she is civil and old, yet nothing more. Perhaps that's it- I don't ever want to become old. We all grow old, naturally, but I don't want to be old. Old as in: joyless, apathetic or I've seen it all. I don't want to be that kind of old. I don't want my perspective of existence or my awe of God to grow stale and cold as I age. Those are two things I don't ever want to "get used to."

"Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel." (Crime and Punishment)


...The steps fell lightly and oddly, with a certain swing, for all they went so slowly; it was different indeed from the heavy creaking tread of Henry Jekyll. Utterson sighed. "Is there never anything else?" he asked.

Poole nodded. "Once," he said. "Once I heard it weeping!"

"Weeping? How that?” said the lawyer, conscious of a sudden chill of horror.

"Weeping like a woman or a lost soul," said the butler. "I came away with that upon my heart, that I could have wept too."

-Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde


Stygian shadows
your defeat.
You are cornered
feral ideas,
darkened songs,
bitter death.
'Round this jungle
the lambent sun
has come
to admit,
to admit its
utter ascendancy.


Scrape away the
mulching leaves
from last year
and the clinging
mud between the
of your boots;

It's a new year.


I am frustrated with myself. My head echoes with the pulsing of a headache. My schedule is too packed and I am overwhelmed. It seems like I don't even have time for the small important things. My mind is consumed with a whirlwind of thoughts and many of my obligations stand unfulfilled. It's a new year, and yet I don't find too much joy in it.

And... so I take myself back to square one. And I teach myself to pray; simply.

"Thank you, God, for today. Thank you that I can feel anything at all. Thank you for my head. I'm so glad I have one. Thank you for my eyes. The sky is cloudy and the air is cold, but thank you that I can see and feel the beauty of your world. Thank you for sight. Thank you for my dear family and for my job and for all this busy-ness. Thank you that I even have a family. Thank you that I even have a job. Thank you for your breath-taking provision. Thank you for caring for me; I don't deserve it. Thank you for your grace and the courage to do the things I need to do but haven't, the things I should do, and the things I've already done. You are mighty. Thank you for my fingers- so that I can write this. Thank you for my mind- that I can capture these humble thoughts. Thank you for my health. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for my cup of steaming coffee. Thank you, thank you... for my life. "


One of my terrible downfalls is my resemblance, in personality and pursuit of life, to that of an overly- eager puppy fascinated by his new red ball. I find myself getting completely distracted by the most ridiculous things- may it be new ideas, concepts, films or shoes. I unwittingly pursue the object of my fascination, chasing after it like a puppy chasing the bright and beautiful red-as-an-apple ball. "Oooh, look! It bounces!" While these things, these distractions, aren't particularly harmful- too much of their influence tend to tediously snag my heart and mind. In my distracted state I often have over-looked the fact that I have run off course a bit. And if the habit is kept up, soon I am surprised to find myself in the swamp, up to my knees in green algae. Swamps are horrible things to climb out of. This year, my main resolution is to take seriously the words of Christ:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15)


If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairytale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairytale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairytale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy. So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt: it must be one particular proportion of the two-- which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good and happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.
-G.K. Chesterton


My eyes watched
from the wet ground.

He grabbed a
handful of stars;
rays flashing
from His hands.
Covering my head,
I shuddered at
the light-
such great light

I sank into the
river, shaking.
Yet, the dark waters
would not hide me,
as the deep
lifted its hands
on high.

Was His wrath
against the rivers?
Or His indignation
against the
innocent seas?

So I sought solace in
the green hills.

Yet I heard His
on the trails.
I saw the flash of
His glittering
spear, as the
everlasting hills
sank low.

The sun
and moon
stood still.

His breath
around me
like smoke.
And I felt the
of His veiled

The nations shook
and the valleys sang.


God is the Lord.

. . .

[Inspired by Habakkuk 3]