Thursday, July 31, 2014

In a Long Line of Women

As I dressed yesterday, I decided to be celebratory.  After all, it was my birthday.  So I dug through my costume jewelry in search of the ‘good stuff’ – the things I have inherited or been given from the women in my family.

On went the ring from Aunt Lucie which she gave me when I graduated from law school. . . my Grandmother Bertha’s bracelet, which my mother had saved for me when I graduated from college . . . and the pearls my mother gave me when I turned 40 (I think – the particular birthdays fade with time) – a reminder we’d come a long way from the days when my Dad would search for pearls for Mom in his oyster stew . . . leaving behind my other grandmother’s wedding ring (too small for my hands and the chain I used to wear it on broken) and her cameo, a necklace from Lucie and trinkets from friends over the years.

Most of the time I don’t wear much jewelry – maybe some earrings, the cross and ankle bracelet gift from my kids for Mother’s Day – that’s about it.

This birthday I decided festive and bejeweled was the order of the day.

But mostly, as I searched and reminisced, I was minded of the long line of women in which I stand . . . for the gifts of remembering and love they have given me . . . for the contributions they made to their world . . .

Grandmother Bertha a teacher and shaper of little minds made to resign when she married but called back to teach later in life when the men went off to war yet again. . . an old lady by the time I came along, I seldom saw that side of her – the teacher side – but there was one day when she was visiting I remember well.  It was summer and my friends and I were playing in the back yard when a couple of older boys came along and knocked down everything we had been building and making – until, that is, my Grandmother came striding out with her cane which she needed by then to walk and which she shook at the boys as she ordered them to leave us alone – which they did.  These boys didn’t listen to anybody.  But they listened to Bertha.  And my 8-year-old eyes saw her in an entirely new light – the lady so seemingly stern and ladylike in her manners became my heroine and taught me how to stand up for others – it’s not that hard, really – you just do it.

And my adult self knows something else too: whether the boys left or not, Grandmother was brave and doing what was necessary and I loved her for that.

She gave that sense of fair play and what is right to her daughters, my aunt and my mother.  Lucie worked all her adult life as a social worker with young people.  And she took in strays – kids on the run, children of friends having a hard time, young family members in life transitions of our own – we all found a welcoming place in Lucie’s home.

And Mom, who took on those same boys later in life when the bullying had gotten out of hand and she saw I wasn’t up to the job she gave me of fending for myself.  And the bullying stopped.

I come from a long line of formidable women – strong, independent, seekers after justice, believers in the power of change for the better, workers for what needs doing without much fuss.

If I stand for anything, count for anything in this life, it is to them I owe the debt of thanks.

Oh, what a lucky, blessed woman am I.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Time to Count the Cholesterol: On Turning 59

Alas! it is not till time, with reckless hand, 
has torn out half the leaves from the Book of Human Life, 
to light the fires of passion with, from day to day, 
that [wo]man begins to see 
that the leaves which remain are few in number.  – Longfellow, Hyperion, Bk. iv, ch. 8.

Today is my birthday.  I am 59.  Sigh.  I have no idea at all what that should mean.  Perhaps it means that it’s time to start counting my cholesterol.  Maybe I should have begun that exercise years ago.  Maybe not.

But really, what gets accomplished by 59 year olds?

Well, according to the Museum of Conceptual Art , at age 59:

Einstein achieved a major new result in the general theory of relativity.

English novelist and journalist Daniel Defoe wrote his first and most famous novel, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

"Satchel" Paige became the oldest Major League baseball player.

Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

Cellist Nancy Donaruma retired from the New York Philharmonic to become a full-time paramedic.

After nine years of sacrificing in the United States, Ana Torres hired a shrimp boat and rode on it to get her sons out of Cuba during the Mariel boat lift

I am no Einstein, Defoe, Paige, Barton, Donaruma or Torres.

So what have I done with this gift of years?

I’ve spent 24 years in school . . . 35 going on 36 being a mom . . . 22 being a lawyer . . . 8 a preacher . . . owned my own business and worked for others . . . lived in a foreign country (Scotland – okay, so not all that foreign) . . . owned my own home . . . been blessed to be able to spend most of my work life doing things that mattered . . . hiked in the Rocky Mountains and on the Appalachian Trail . . . 

I’ve traveled to and through 33+ of these United States and 16 countries . . . 

I’ve lived through a Cold War and its end and the potential of its resumption . . . the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others around the world . . . I’ve seen Neil Armstrong walk on the moon while in the safety of my living room . . . along with the Gulf War . . . the Iran-Iraq war . . . the U.S. invasion of Iraq . . . the wars in Afghanistan (Russian and U.S.-led) . . . Syria’s civil war . . . Viet Nam . . . Israel/Palestine again and again and yet again . . . 

Yet being a witness to history is not being a participant in it.

So what would be my accomplishments, given that I’ve yet to undertake the cholesterol-checking regimen?  

Maybe these things:

1. Standing up for others when they could not stand up for themselves.

2. Being a mom to some pretty fine kids.

3. Being a daughter to some pretty fine parents.

4. Cooking some pretty good meals.

5. Walking alongside some pretty amazing people.

6. Being an appreciative audience to some pretty fine performances.

7. Being a pretty good friend – sometimes.

8. Sharing lots of stories.

Of all that I have done, I have not kissed or been kissed nearly enough, danced enough, laughed enough or protested enough.

Perhaps there will be time and occasion for more.  It seems greedy to ask, but I hope so.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Memories of a Three-Year-Old

It’s July in the mountains, which means it can be hot or it can be cold. . . it can be sunshine or it can be rain . . . often on the same day – you just never know.

But it’s July in the mountains, so with great hope and anticipation, having forgotten for the moment the vagaries of long winters, we come outdoors and we garden and tend and visit and plan . . . and God smiles.

So it was on Sunday – with a confidence I did not feel, in answer to daily inquiries, I kept to the plan – yes, the Carnival will go on . . . yes, I know they’re calling for thunderstorms and hail . . . we’ll just wait and see . . . yes, bring the bouncy castle . . . yes, unless it’s storming at the time, we will go on.

To plan in the mountains requires the memory of a three-year old, like my buddy Braiden – you have to be willing to simply believe in your plans and keep moving until you can’t.

It tickles me beyond measure that Braiden was looking forward to the carnival, having come to the last one
and having had such a good time – who knew that when you’re three, you can actually remember what happened when you were two?  But Braiden does.

So he was sure there would be a carnival – because we had one last year and Beth said we would have one again this year – and that was good enough for him.

It’s such a gift – having your word be taken as true by one so small.

So it was that the skies parted for a time and the sun shone on our little carnival.  Did God part the skies for a little country fun?  Or was it just the right time in God’s scheme for such a thing?

All I know is that it happened and Braiden was glad because he remembered and it was every bit as good as he knew it would be.

And if it had rained?  If it hadn’t happened?

Oh well – those things happen.

How is it that three-year olds understand so well?

I wish I knew.  All I can do is say thanks to Braiden and Kaden and all the little ones who look forward in faith always with the ability to take disappointment in stride when the rains come.

Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he spoke of coming to him like a little child – with hearts filled with faith whether the sun is shining or the rains are pouring. . . saying yes even when you know your yes may be turned in to a no by things beyond your own control.

I like to think so.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ice Dancing

Our annual Chocolate-Communion Ice-Cream-Social Kid’s-Carnival celebration of Christmas in July has come and gone.  As always, there are lessons to be learned about putting on an event, but my favorite lesson came from a wee boy, my co-conspirator of fun.

At the end of the day, I emptied the cooler of ice into the grass, a couple of passes to get the job done.  With the first dump, Kaden came up and just stared down at the ice.  I told him he could touch it with his feet.

So he did.

At first gingerly – just a toe – pulled back with a look of utter delight on his face.  It’s cold! he exclaimed in sheer wonder.

Yes it is, said I.  You can do it again if you want.

And he did.

First a toe.  Then a foot.  Back and forth he went in the simply joy of feeling the cold on the bottoms of his feet.

Then he got brave and jumped in with both feet.

And down he went.

Tears.  Hugs.  Arms out for Grandma.  Comfort.

I think he’ll remember how fun it was to feel the cold and forget the fall.  That’s what I hope, anyhow.  Or maybe he’ll remember both and learn from both – how to laugh and how to take care.

Life’s like that, isn’t it?

We learn to navigate the ice and if we’re very lucky, every now and then, we even manage a dance.  And fall or no fall, it is so worth it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Conquering Our Fears

A little boy stands on the boat deck with increasing numbers of his loved ones in the water below shouting encouragement for him to take the last step and get in the raft below.

In the process of hours, he has moved from wrapping himself mid-ship to the nearest human or inanimate anchor to taking step after tentative step to the edge.  At one point, he even extends his leg as if to step out, only to run back to the safety of leaving the raft out of his line of sight.

After a few minutes, the process begins again.  Adults aboard ship offer to make it even easier by lifting him in to the raft – no go, that one.

Back to safety.

But there is that haunted, yearning look in his eyes.  And I hope with all my heart that he will find the courage or determination or desperation to take that last step – because I recall that feeling from my own childhood so vividly – the feeling of wanting to do something so very badly and not having the ability to take that very last step – the disappointment in self larger even than the loss of the moment – and I silently root for him for all the times I didn't take the leap.

An aunt jumps in the water and gets in the raft, saying nothing to the wee boy.  She splashes and floats and laughs and then pretends to notice the boy standing wistfully watching her and asks almost casually, Do you want to come in?  

He nods, silently.  His Dad lowers him in and all is well and within the hour he will float alone with confidence and even get into the lake water whose depths had so frightened him before.

Sometimes all it takes is an invitation.

Sometimes a welcoming aunt showing you the way.

Or a dad standing behind you.

But at the last, it always takes the willingness to take that very last step – the leap of faith.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Silhouette of a Memory

Standing on a dock jutting out into the black of a North Carolina night serenaded by the two banjo frogs competing (in the way of frogs) for a little love, I watch a man and a boy fishing from the dock side by side, their soft voices a quiet counterpoint sliding past the steady raucousness of the frogs.

They stand side by side, leaning slightly in to each other, as if this posture, this way of looking out to the world, is the weave out of which they were made – a single cloth cut in half yearning back to its former glory of oneness.

They are stealthy in their quiet, in the way of all fishermen, laconically flicking their poles into the dark water before them, not hopeful, not despairing, merely there because there is where fish are to be found.

After a time, the younger one begins to chat – still fishing, but longing for an accompanying voice to the bigness of all this quiet.

What does it mean that you’re color blind, Dad?

Well . . . you know black and dark blue?  I can’t really tell the difference.

Like a spider?


Like a camouflage spider?

You mean how he blends in and no one can see him?


Sort of like that, yes, it is.

The silence resumes, interrupted by the distant splashes of surfacing fish – just out of reach of the bait of bugs stolen from spider webs the man and boy have made, the fish move on unhooked, alive to the possibilities of another day.

The single light pole on the dock casts about for the pair as they move down the dock as they too head out of reach and the stillness of a summer night on a lake somewhere in North Carolina goes on.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Honor Has Left the Building: Lying and Dying on the International Stage

A plane crashes in Ukraine and a Russian official claims that Mr. Putin himself was the target – really?

Classic propaganda technique: make yourself the victim when in fact you are among the class of perpetrators.

Let me be clear: there is insufficient evidence at this point for anyone to claim with any degree of certainty who actually shot the Malaysian plane down.

That said, all kinds of folk are making dreadful and obvious plays to make this horror all about them – like the Australian life insurance company that threw up an ad for life insurance linking the need to this crash.  And like Mr. Putin’s government putting out the word that whoever shot the plane down was actually trying to shoot his plane down.

Really, Mr. Putin?  Really?  300+ families around the world today sit in shock and mourning about the literal disappearance of their loved ones from the planet for no reason other than that they happened to be flying over some land in dispute and you make it be about you?  Really?

Nice touch.

Then come the reports of fighting about who controls the scene of the crash – really?

Of passports being stolen.

Is there, at the last, no shame?

Why would I think there would be?

This is war.

And the one thing war gins up quite a bit with virtually no effort is paranoia.  And for some reason still obscure to me, when paranoia enters, shame leaves.

The thinking seems to go something like this:  Either we’d better get control so they don’t know we did it or we’d better get control so they don’t say we did it when we didn’t.

Let me make it easy for you.

You did it.

You know who you are.

And so, actually, do we.

The person or persons who actually hit the buttons, set the aim, made the call – they have the direct responsibility and they, whoever they may be, know it.  Their demons, I suspect, are already many and unrelenting.

But it is not of them I speak when I say that we all know who you are.

The people caught up in the swirl of strike, counter-strike, move, counter-move, in the conflict zone that Ukraine has become (and yes, most certainly, that includes you, Mr. Putin), are responsible.

You cannot create the chaos that is war and then step back and claim innocence, horror or surprise at the speedy demise of those caught in the cross-fire.

So now we know.

We are not safe around you.

Good reminder – thanks for that.

Of course it would have saved a whole lot of lives if you had simply declared Ukrainian air space off limits or no longer protected.


Too late for that, eh?

Forgive the sarcasm (or don’t), but perhaps a few obvious lessons might emerge:

1. Mr. Putin – cut it out.  Just cut it out.  Every big land grab backfires.  Your country has learned it before.  So has mine.  But we both seem to keep forgetting, eh?  A quick review might be helpful: Hitler and his Reich?  Gone.  The Soviet Union?  Gone.  The British Empire?  Gone.  The colonialized African sub-continent?  Independent and yes, in chaos*, but largely colonies no more.  And let us not forget the Middle East – the French, the British, the Americans, the Turks, the USSR (I’m sure I’ve overlooked someone) have all relearned the lesson of history that land grabs backfire over time only to have the next sucker come along thinking, apparently, this time will be different.  Are you one of the stupid ones?  Or the smart ones?  That’s the only question I really want answered from you and we will all know soon enough.  Keep it up like you have been and we’ll have our answer, won’t we?

2. The more outrageous your claims, the more we in the rest of the world will believe you were behind the action.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  But maybe the rest of the world isn’t the intended audience.  Maybe only the people of Russia are the intended audience.  And perhaps they are with you, Mr. Putin.  Perhaps they too dream of a return to previous glories.  Perhaps they too fear the expansionist designs of other nations.  Perhaps they too believe that your plane was the target (without bothering to even think about how very unlikely it is that your plane, of all the planes in the world, would fly over Ukrainian air space in the first place, given the state of present events).

3. The world has come to, crossed over and retreated from all kinds of brinks before.  This feels different.  Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.  But we (humanity) are out of control.  The lawless indifference to life that shoots into the sky and asks questions later has risen to epic proportions within my own lifetime.  It’s bad enough when the plane is the actual target.  But, for me, at least, it somehow seems so much worse when it was merely an accident of war – an unintended consequence – that they were caught in a cross-fire they didn’t even know was there.  For that kind of indifference to all life tells me that this is no longer about enemies squaring off to settle the fight.  This is about destruction for its own sake.  The dehumanization is complete.  And we – all of us – are the lesser for it.

4. None of us on the planet can complain about things being out of control.  They are – out of control.  And we – all of us – are responsible – since we – all of us, seem to have collectively decided that getting our way matters more than anything else, that our tribe is the only tribe that counts – well, we can hardly be surprised at the results, given that everyone else belongs to a tribe too, now can we?

5. Finally, it is clear that there is no honor in war.  Even I, as a pacifist, have long wanted to believe that honor on the battle field is possible.  But that is a lie.  If there were honor on the battlefield, then whoever did push the button, aim the weapon, and brought down an airplane of folk flying from one place to another on a bright and sunny day, would come forward and own their action.  If there were honor, the individuals who killed the 4 Israeli teenage boys just a few weeks back, as well as those who killed the Palestinian boy and set his body afire in apparent retribution; the Israeli soldier or soldiers who purportedly made the mistake of killing 4 teenage Palestinian boys playing on the beach, would step forward as individuals and take responsibility.  If there were honor, the United States would have bothered to count, name and report the civilians it killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  If there were honor, when things like Abu Ghraib happen, responsibility would voluntarily travel up the chain of command, because honor demands that its own part in folly be named and acknowledged.  That’s what honor does – it owns its deeds.  It does not hide, for it cannot.  But these things are not about honor.  And no one must be allowed to pretend that they are.  Whatever else they may be about, honor left the building a long time ago, if ever it resided here before.

*Don’t you just love – I bet you do – because I bet you use the same rationale yourself – how the colonizers claim to have invested so much in the transformation for the better of their colony, and then when they leave, claim that their absence caused the collapse [‘they’ could not survive without ‘us’]?  Don’t you just love the absolute absence of irony in the colonial voices?  Don’t you just love the inability to do any meaningful self-reflection that would allow any human being or group of human beings to actually claim [often at the same time] to have saved someone from themselves and then prove that no one was saved or ever intended to be saved – that the very fact of the descent into chaos proves the absence of salvation – saved people don’t devolve – kind of obvious, isn’t it?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Chickens Don’t Cross the Road

We all know why chickens do cross the road . . . to get to the other side . . . and in case we miss the point, there is actually a Wikipedia entry on the subject.

Yesterday as I was driving across Jack Mountain towards Monterey, I passed again a small flock of chickens on the right side of the road.  They are beautiful birds, these chickens.  Not your usual barnyard gathering by any means.

Yet there they were, free range on the side of the road, where I have come to expect to see them, not a caretaker nor coop in sight.

Who are these chickens?

To whom do they belong?

And how is it that they never, ever, ever, seem to cross the road?

While I was musing on such questions, I came upon a young deer who actually did cross the road.  But as with all the deer I’ve been seeing of late, she actually paused, seeming to look both ways before she stepped slowly from the side and walked, rather than leapt, across.

Has someone been gathering the animal population around here and teaching them about road safety?

A friend suggests that its evolution: all the ‘stupid’ deer have been killed, leaving only those smart enough to consider traffic when they encounter a road.


But I rather fancy animal road safety courses taking place somewhere deep in the woods, beyond where human eyes can see – I wonder what the driver’s test is like?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Travel Plans

Like most things in life, travel plans must be flexible, subject to change – the stress of unmet expectations is just too much to bear otherwise.

And sometimes, as a very wise and wonderful friend once told me, my job is simply to

get in the car 

(and let everything else take care of itself).

So today, in anticipation of a trip going not quite according to plan, I’m going to steal an idea from Highlights magazine and make my grandson a book of states so he can put stickers on where he’s traveled to already and look forward to where he has yet to go.

It’ll be cooler coming home-made from Gran than a professionally organized and printed book.

[Uh-oh – voices of gift recipients past are echoing in my head . . . (fake smile) Oh – another home-made gift from Beth . . . thanks . . . ]

Well, it might not be cooler.

But it will be from me.

And maybe he won’t know the difference.  Or maybe he will and that'll be all right too.

Better get busy.

It’ll be time to get in the car soon.

And who knows what will happen then?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sower, Seed & Soil - Part 2

A parable of my own: When my son Ben lived with me, there came a time when I begged him to plant some tomato and pepper plants for me.  Ben is a good gardener – he inherited his Grandmother’s thumb.  He absolutely refused: I will not waste a moment of my life on planting anything for you, Ma. 

Imagine my hurt when I asked him why.  Because you won’t do the necessary work and we both know it.  You’ll ignore it and leave it to its own devices and it will die.  I won’t do it.  And you can’t make me.

That’s how I remember it, anyhow.

All the conditions were excellent for a good crop: good soil, plenty of sunshine, an easy source of nearby water in the form of the water hose; a willing and able sower, good seed.

What was missing was a gardener – someone to nurture and tend what was sown.

And without a good gardener, the crop would fail.

People are like the plants I wanted to plant but had no interest in maintaining: telling someone the Good News, preaching at them about what they should do, without being willing to go the distance with them, without being willing to do the hard work of persisting throughout their ‘season’, they have virtually no chance.

We cannot preach someone to heaven.  We have to walk alongside those – including ourselves – in need of God’s Word.

For how long?  For as long as it takes.

Just like Jesus.


Ben was right, of course – I would have been too unmindful to even drag the garden hose the few feet necessary to water my imaginary plants.  It’s not easy when the son becomes the teacher, let me tell you.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sower, Seed & Soil (Part 1)

Matthew 13 (NRSV):   “Listen! A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Let anyone with ears listen! . . . When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.  But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”


Sower, Seed & Soil (Part 1)

In Jesus’ parable, we are left with three ‘groups’: 1.  The sower; 2.  The seeds; and 3.  The soil.

The trick of the parable, perhaps, is to recognize that we ourselves, as well as God, can play any or all of these roles.

We operate as the sower when we bring the Word of God to others, whether with our words or with our deeds.

We operate as the seeds when the Word of God works (or doesn’t work) upon us.

We operate as the soil, offering ground fertile or infertile – that is, the space in which God’s Word either finds root or does not – for ourselves and for others.

Some things to know about sowers:

1. We are all sowers.  We are all proclaimers of God’s Word.  We are a priesthood of believers, each and all of us called and charged with the gift and responsibility of sharing what we know with others.  There is no professional priesthood that gets laypeople off the hook.  It is not my job; it is ours, this proclaiming business.  It is ours.

2. The sower’s job is to sow the seed – that is to proclaim God’s Word with our words and most importantly, with our lives.  The response of the seed is not within our control – when we sow, we do the best we can and leave the rest to God and the other person.

3. A sower sows.  A sower does not tell the soil it is unworthy of the seed.  A sower nurtures the soil if nurture it needs.  A sower clears the soil of rock before sowing rather than complaining that the soil is rocky when seed fails to take root.  A sower works with rather than against the soil.

4. Sowers persist.  A sower knows that sometimes the seed simply will not take root and germinate.  The results are not within the sower’s control.  Sowers sow.  It is the seed which must do the growing.  This is why a sower does not abandon tomatoes as a crop merely because of one bad year for tomatoes.

5. A sower knows that depending on the crop, he may never live to see the fruits of his labor; yet the sower trusts that fruits there will be.

Some things to remember about the ground, dirt, soil that we are:

1. Sometimes soil stays the same; mostly it doesn’t.  Wonderful beds of soil have been made or lost over time to due changing weather patterns, changing river ways, to management and mismanagement.

2. What lays under the top soil isn’t obvious.  You’ve got to do some digging to find out about the true value of the land.

3. Sometimes only time will tell when it comes to what we put in the ground – sometimes you just have to wait and see what will grow.

4. Soil is often affected by things beyond its control – chemical pesticides, weather (wind and rain) caused erosion, the formation of gullies (which travel uphill rather than down).

Finally, seeds might do well to remember that:

1. The germ of life lives within you.

2. The desire to respond to good soil and water and sun – to nourishment – is innate to who you are – you are a seed – you were made for growing.  And like the caterpillar, who you are now looks nothing like who or what you will become.

3. You are a crop seed, which means that when you grow, it will not be – or not only be – for your own glory, but for the nourishment, the sustaining, of others.

As followers of The Way, we are all sowers, soil and seeds – sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for others.

Being a sower means being patient, diligent and persistent. . . and knowledgeable about the soil and seed. The farmer who quits the first time a crop fails isn’t much of a farmer.  Likewise, a sower of God’s Word who gets discouraged at the first rejection isn’t going to be much of a sower.

A good farmer is one who understands the particular seed he works with, knowing in what conditions it will best grow, understanding the soil he’s dealing with.  Likewise, a good sower doesn’t beat the soil or condemn the seed.  Rather, the good sower does all he can to nourish the soil, remove the rocks, establish a rich top soil to give the seed the best possible chance to grow.

And being the seed is just doing that which we were created to do: grow.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Cacophony of Morning

Summer mornings are always an adventure of awakening.  This morning, it began with the stealth of muted sound as one bird, then another and another, gave voice to the start of their day, whispered at first in to the fog of this day’s dawning (whether the fog actually mutes their cries or not, I cannot say, but it seems so).

In short order (apparently it only takes one or two to wake the whole crowd), thousands of voices of hundreds of different calls and cries filled the air, chased by the sounds of cars and trucks and log trucks and other hauling equipment passing by, hurrying from one place to another, filling the air with the noise of their impatience as they whiz by.

As quickly as they came, their noise fades back to the birds, quietened by their departures for parts unknown, til it be night again and they return to settle in, calling out their subdued good-nights.

And tomorrow it begins again.

I am always struck by the great band of the noises of the morning – so quickly upon me and so quickly passed by.  Some mornings, I let it all wash over me and pass back to my own rest.  Others, I bound out of bed, energized by the hustle and bustle outside my window.

Sundays are the best, when, after the lull, as the morning grows late, Glen walks his way to church, singing his baritone glories to God along the way.

I never tire of the serenade of the morning.  I just wish I knew the notes for the song of the log trucks – bass profundo with their reverb bouncing off the house and setting it to joining in the song.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to sing along with them.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Existential Threat

Oh no . . . I might cease to exist . . . Help me!  I’m melting!  What do you mean you disagree?  How could you possibly disagree with me and all my rightness?  Really?  Life is a circle?  And all this time, I thought it was a square?  Nooooooooooooooo!  Say it isn’t soooooooooooo!  Stop existentialing me!  I can’t take it anymore!

What on earth is an ‘existential threat’ and how can a nation possibly experience one?

I don’t know about you, but popular jargon sometimes drives me to distraction, if not distinction or worse, extinction.

‘Existential threat’ is one of those jargon-esque phrases that means little but sounds like you’re smart, as best I can tell.

Turns out an existential threat isn’t existential at all – which means it’s probably not much of a threat, either.

ex·is·ten·tial – adjective

1. of, relating to, or affirming existence <existential propositions>
2. a. grounded in existence or the experience of existence :  empirical
b. having being in time and space
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

According to Jargon Database.Com, an existential threat is:
Surprisingly NOT something one finds covered in a college philosophy textbook, this is regarded as a military or terrorist threat to the existence of something, usually the United States. Usually involves nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Perhaps, to be kind, the reason the term “usually” refers to the United States is that only military and intelligence folk working for the United States government use the term.  To be kind.

Or perhaps, the coiners and users of the phrase misapprehend the distinction between self- and universal-interest.

Or, more likely, the astute coiners and users understand that talking points beginning with: “threat to the United States” has, perhaps understandably of late, been understood at home and abroad as an excuse for military adventuring around the globe and a new phrase was needed to conceal or soften or make vague (my personal vote) the exact nature of the threat involved.

To illustrate: had President Franklin Roosevelt declared on December 7, 1941, that the United States faced an “existential threat”, Congress and the American people would have, at best, been confused and at worst, downright angry at their leader’s inability to state the simple fact that we had been attacked and action was called for in response.

When clear and present danger exists, it is, as President Roosevelt himself noted, self-evident.

It is only when the possibilities of threat, the fears of dangers yet determined, the ephemera of the mind sure of a world bent on hostility toward it (there’s a word for that in psychology and it’s not ‘health’) are the narrative of the day that language becomes cloudy and vague, couched in terms which largely have no meaning.

For the fact is, that if taken literally, the world itself is an ‘existential threat’ to me – my existence is in perpetual danger for the most simple of reasons: I am finite, mortal, limited.  And one day, I will cease, as will all the other I’s on the planet with me.  The how and the when remain unknown to me, but the fact of is a certainty.

So please, please, oh please, my nation’s shapers of dialogue, won’t you please stop the language of perpetual existential threat?  Perhaps if you spent more time with your kids; hung out more with your neighbors and friends; read more good literature; strolled more places of art; inhabited more of the natural beauty surrounding you, you would be less afraid.  Perhaps.

I know it’s your job to ‘threat assess’.  I get it.  Really, I do.  But language shapes reality and not merely our perception of it.  If you truly grasped this, perhaps you would spend less time trying to convince me how dangerous the world is and more in choosing your words wisely.

Just a thought.

So maybe next time you’re in a meeting and someone’s struggling to find the right word or phrase, you might remember the power of words and the law of unintended consequences.  Because when you went all existential on me, you didn’t make me feel or be safe.  You made me (or tried to) afraid.  Of you.

Because, you see, when it comes to threats existential, the only enemy I see before me is you.  And I don’t want you as my enemy, for you are my brother.  Truly.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Words from My Younger Self

It's one of those exercise things -- two words from your younger self to the you you now are.  Never able to settle on just two of anything, here I go . . .

care more 
care less
lighten up
laugh often
good enough
pretty mama
it matters
light touch
skip, girl
you’re okay
you can
you have
love you
can’t wait
live it
love it
sing it
dance it
play it

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

8 Cool Things About Having a Visitor

Sharing your life, your favorites, the world through your eyes with a guest has its challenges as well as its rewards.  I’ve had a lot of company these last weeks, and as Rachel (Rae) from Scotland and I share our last full day, I’m already thinking back.

Here, then, a list of things cool about sharing with a guest to your life:

1. The fun of sharing regional favorites, like Five Guys, sweet tea and fried chicken from the gas station.

2. Heading to those places you love but seldom get to – Cooper’s Rock, Valley Falls, and  Natural Bridge, to name a few.

3. Luring her in to your own obsession with all things Star Trek, ending up with both of you humming together the Star Trek Voyager theme music at dinner.

4. Laughter.

5. Finding your amazement at the things she doesn’t like that you just love – who wouldn’t love fresh tomatoes with mozzarella, basil and a little balsamic?  Why, it’s positively unAmerican.  Oh.

6. Seeing your world through her eyes, realizing (again) just how loud we Americans of the U. S. variety can be (are); noticing our craven love for salt (who knew there even could be too much salt on movie pop corn?); having to warn that our hot water is not an inexhaustible supply (why will we not adopt the U. K. way on this?); rediscovering that a coffee maker is mysterious if you’ve never used one before; explaining that you’re safe in a car from a Mama Bear; remembering how much you love fire works; having to explain who the people of your people’s history are – what each tribe holds so dear of its past is but so much unknown data to those of another tribe.

7. Showing her the magic of the nighttime in summer and watching her see lightening bugs for the first time – pure magic.

8. Rediscovering how very much we are all alike and how very much we are all so different – all at the same time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Do I Want My Old Age to Look Like?

Most times, I have this movie-silly vision of me wearing an apron like Grandma always seemed to, sitting on the porch or standing at the fence or in the kitchen making something wonderfully memorably fabulous.  That, I think, is my ideal future.

Until I stop and remember who I really am.  So yes, there will be kitchen moments and some pretty good food.

But there will also be travel – lots of travel – to places new to me, to experiences not yet had.  And there will be evidence of children in my life in the left-behind blow bubbles and chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

And there will be protests.  I will not go gentle in to that good night – not because I fear dying, but because there is so much yet to be said to the living about how we could all do it a bit better and somehow, I persist in thinking that I need to say it whether you wish to hear it or not – yes, I will be that old lady – the one who always has advice that you never quite know how to respond to because I am your elder and it would be rude to say what you’re thinking (although that is what I would much prefer you do rather than that nice, vague, dismissing thing).

I will write letters to the editor.

I will say even more of what I think.

I will sing with gusto (if not talent).

I will know my limits and not mind them at all, old friends that we are.

I will dance alone and with others.

I will wear brighter colors and keep coloring my hair because I like it that way, knowing full well that I am not fooling anyone, even myself.

I will, I hope, be grace-filled and patient with and interested in the young.

I will share my stories and look at your pictures if you’ll share and look at mine.

I will have fabulous dinner parties.

I will risk more.

When they come for the boys, I will offer that they send me.

I will be generous and give away as much as I can before I actually leave this verge.

And I will definitely use the good china, unless I give it to the kids first.

This, then, is my old-age manifesto.

I’m not so young anymore, so I think I’d better get busy.  Think I’ll start with the china – followed by a letter to the editor – I’ve got some thoughts on the news of the day and after all, they need sharing, for what is the point of all this wisdom if I do not share it?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Iraq and the Lessons of History: If You Want to Go Back in Time, John McCain

Iraq is in deep trouble.  ISIS and crises abound.

But the let’s-go-back-in-time . . . I-was-right-you-were-wrong crowd make me a little crazy here in the United States as they scream their school-yard analyses before any fool who will give them air time.

1. The desire to go back in time is a waste of . . . time John McCain and others who yell loudest about how ‘we’ (translate the United States military) should not have left Iraq are like those who challenge my pacifist leanings by demanding to know whether I would have killed Adolf Hitler if I had the chance.  It seems so obvious to me, but just in case it’s slipped the attention of the would-be time travelers:

a. We cannot go back in time.  And no one – no one – knows what they could have, should have, would have done.  All we know is what we did or did not do.

b. If we’re going to engage in hypothetical time travel, we actually get to pick when to go back to.  So to the Hitler hypotheticalists, I usually reply that if I’m going to time travel with World War II and the Holocaust in view, I’m not traveling to Hitler’s bunker.  I’m traveling instead to the treaties of post-World War I.  Or to Hitler’s infancy and childhood, when his maniacal character was no doubt formed.  If I’m allowed the magic of changing the past, I’m changing the economic wasteland of post-World War I Germany.  Or the colonializing madness of that same time period.  Or the life of a then-anonymous small boy and his family.

c. if we’re going to time-travel Iraq, I’m going first to when George W. Bush is president in the U. S., toying with invading a country under the cover of the events of September 11, 2001.  Or the same U. S.’ earlier support of a tyrant named Saddam.  Or the installation by the West of a non-native king.  Or the creation of something called Iraq in the first place as a fiction suited and well-suited for the purpose of the exploitation of the natural resources of the region.  (World War II is not the only thing Europe has to answer for).

2. I don’t have the answers and neither does John McCain.  I’ve been to Iraq far more frequently and spent far more time with the peoples of that country than John McCain.  No one is beating down my door for answers.  Nor should they.  This is not my country and I do not have the answers for Iraq.  Neither do John McCain nor the others of his ilk.  And call me silly, but I’ve long understood that if someone doesn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, maybe they should just be quiet.

3. Next time we go nation-building (and sadly, it’s fairly predictable we will), perhaps we should pay more attention to the ‘small’ things – they matter.  Mr. McCain and others allow their focus to be drawn to the obvious: the presence of a military threat in Iraq.  It is real.  And their attention is understandable, if a bit late.  But here’s the thing: the problems that make a collection of folk like ISIS possible are legion.  And none of them were deemed of much importance at the time (recall the aftermath of World War I, where the world began the long reaping of the insanity that is the Middle East today).  They include:

a. cookie-cutter global thinking that led in the first place to the creation of a nation (Iraq) out of a collection of territories or tribal regions.  The United States should be able to understand regional or local loyalties: after all, we fought a civil war over that very thing as north and south lined up and border regions foundered in mixed loyalties.  Robert E. Lee resigned his commission with the United States Army in order to serve with his beloved Virginia.  Whoever said that all politics is local knew whereof he spoke.

b. the rights you give up on behalf of someone else today will bite them and you tomorrow.  During the strange time when the United States determined that Iraq should have a constitution, there were long and strong and important wranglings over its content.  I actually listened to a gentleman on television – retired CIA – state regarding women’s rights that it was no big deal to throw women under the bus in Iraq’s constitution – after all, he said (I paraphrase), Iraq’ll just be where the U. S. was before the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote in the U. S.  It was said dismissively.  It was said with no thought to the cost to the women who made that reality change.  It was said with no understanding that in his own beloved United States, before the franchise for women, women were much as they are around the world today, unable to own property in their names, presumptively disqualified to have custody of their children in the event of divorce, hampered if allowed at all to engage in commerce, viewed as inherently incapable of making important decisions like who should be their president, and locked in to violent marriages with virtually no recourse societal or legal.  The United States apparently agreed with this man whose name I cannot recall and the women of Iraq were relegated once again to virtually no voice as Sharia law was constitutionally enshrined in Iraq.

c. Every parent learns, to their chagrin, when they teach their children resistance in any form, sooner or later, will be used against them.  So it is everywhere; so it has been in Iraq.  Thus Maliki’s position as leader of this would-be nation leads inevitably to the events of today as he fails to grasp the lessons of his own recent history.  Put another way, we cannot be surprised when the oppressed become the oppressor.  It happens time and again.  Mr. Maliki had (many legitimate) axes to grind.  But in the grinding, he becomes the thing he so hated.  And the cycle continues.  The United States did the same thing: hating being attacked on our own shores, we attacked others on theirs and claim surprise at the lack of gratitude over the legacy of the dead.

d. Self-interested exploitation rather than genuine economic development yields predictable results.  Iraq is land rich in resources, yet many of its people live in gross poverty.  There is literally no reason save the greed of the powerful for this.

I could go on: wilful cultural ignorance; the unwillingness to listen to anyone with a contrary voice; mass detentions of young men for the crime of being young men; surrendering our own values to the crucible of war; teaching the ways of war rather than teaching the ways of peace; the naivete of the many soccer-balls from home mini-projects; the failure to even consider the inevitable chaos that occurs when war comes to town; failure to understand or address currency, commerce, and economics in a very different culture; ignoring the imams; raining money on the wrong people in the wrong places at the wrong times in order to buy a little space for our soldiers; failing to address every-day policing in a sane way; treating civilians like problems rather than solutions; using military rather than police philosophies with the civilian population (killing the man on his roof rather than finding out why he’s on the roof in the first place); becoming the monster we came to unseat.

No, Mr. McCain, you and I stand too far away to offer much, if anything, in the way of wisdom when it comes to Iraq.  But if you insist on talking about what we should have done, let us begin not with our guns but with our presence.  Let us begin not with the last few years, but with the last century.

You may have forgotten that history, but I assure you, the Iraqis have not.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Come to Me

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  NRSV
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  The Message

Come to Me

Come to me . . . such an invitation, such a welcome – who could imagine it?

But the invitation is not for everyone, for the very simple reason that not everyone needs this invitation – or do they?  Who is to come?  The weary . . . the burdened among us . . . all of them . . . all of us . . .

kopiao – to become weary or tired.  Or to exert one’s self – to strive, to toil, to work hard, to struggle.

Maybe it’s the hard workers among us . . . or the strivers . . . the strugglers . . . or maybe it’s just the soul- and bone-weary . . .

Tired of thinking about the problems for which you have no solutions?

Weary of the cares and burdens that aren’t even yours?

Soul-sighingly broken by the blindness of others?

At the end of your own rope and the rope of all your neighbors?

Come to me, says Jesus.  Like a cool drink of water on a hot day . . . like a gentle breeze on a still summer’s day when nothing is moving . . . like a soft cushion between your head and the hard ground . . . come to me – and I . . .

I . . . not your worries . . . your plans . . . your efforts . . . your demands . . . even your prayers and good works and unending attempts to change . . . no – none of that – I and only I . . . will give you rest.

Give you – notice – you do . . . not . . . have . . . to . . . work . . . for . . . it.

It is yours – because I give it to you, this rest.

It is my gift.

You don’t earn it.

You don’t create it.

You don’t . . . you can’t . . . make it happen.

But you can fall in to it.  Surrender for it.  Live better through it.

What is this ‘thing’ Jesus will give, if we but come to him?


Refreshment . . . respite . . . reviving life . . . sabbath . . . how, then would it be, if we understood life as the act of resting in to the Lord?  Of falling into God’s embrace?  Of soul-surrendering in to the cushion of God’s love?

This divine offer of rest is a real, tangible, physical thing.  We all carry our tensions in our bodies somewhere.  Me?  Usually it’s my shoulders.  How about you?  Where do you carry your tensions?  For some, it’s the chest – where that tight feeling that sometimes makes it hard to breathe resides.  For others, maybe it’s the jaw – clenched against what might be coming.

Or the hands similarly clenched until the muscles ache with tension.  It might even be in our hair.

Wherever we carry our burdens, there, says Jesus, will he be – lightening the load, offering kindness, providing rest, if we but come.

Sure, fine, but then what?

Take my yoke . . . it is not switching one yoke, one work, one burden, for another.  Oh no, it is not that.  Take the yoke I offer, says Jesus – the yoke being a thing of uniting – as two animals are bound physically to do their work in tandem, together, side-by-side.

To take on the yoke of Christ, then, might be understood to be coming alongside this Jesus - working, walking, sharing with this Christ – and in the sharing, the burden is made light – of little weight, as Jesus carries his half and a good bit of yours too.

And in the lessening of the load, there, then, is rest.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Farewell to a Cat: The First & Last of Sidney

I inherited Sidney the Cat (whom I nicknamed Sidney, Mighty Huntress of the Night for her beautiful black coat and her stealth ways) when she was already middle-aged.  Our time together went something like this . . .

Ben calls, in tears, begging me to take on this cat with the words, “Ma, I know you’re not a cat person, but please take her.  We don’t have anyone else.  If you don’t take her, we’ll have to put her to sleep.”

Who can ignore the tearful pleas of one’s own child calling one to be a rescuing hero in the life of another creature?  Certainly not I.

We meet at one of our many half-way points and Ben hands me over this cat in her cage, along with litter box, food, and many, many, instructions, my favorite still being:

“You must let the water run all the time.  She only drinks running water.”  After a bit of a verbal tussle on this one, I (wisely) simply opted for silence.  About a week in to our new life together, Ben calls to check in on Sid.  He asks how I am doing (notice the emphasis) with the running water thing.  “Not a problem,” I cheerfully reply.  A wise and naturally suspicious child (at least when it comes to his mother), Ben digs deeper: “are you running the water?”  “Of course not.”  “Is she drinking?”  “She is now.”  “What does that mean?”  “It means that I am not leaving the water run 24 hours a day for the cat and that she’s figured that out.  It took her a few days, but she’s drinking from the bowl.”  Suspicious he: “how many days?”  “Oh, about 3.”  “You let my cat go without water for 3 days?!?”  “No, Ben.  I never let your cat go without water.  What I did was put it in a bowl.  She found it.  It took her awhile, but she found it.”  I’m not sure if he’s yet forgiven me for that one, but Sid and I had made our arrangement and Ben was largely beside the point.

Ben instructs me at that fateful exchange meeting that at first, I must restrict Sidney to one room in the house so that she can get accustomed to her new space.  I decide it will be my office.  I get her situated and then I go do some other things.  When I come back, I cannot find Sidney. . . anywhere.  I thoroughly scout the office – no Sid.  I then search the entirety of the house – no small feat – and still, no Sidney.  I call for her.  I listen for any meows.  I hear nothing.  I see nothing.  

I sit down at my office chair, in admitted defeat, pick up the phone to return Ben’s call.  He has left a message that beat us home to see how Sidney is doing.  I am going to have to tell him that I have lost his cat within minutes of our arrival at her new home.  It won’t be pretty.  As the phone is ringing, I sit and ponder, retracing all my own steps since bringing Sidney inside.  A thought enters my mind.  I dismiss it.  And then I act on it, opening the lower drawer where I had thrown my purse.  And there she was.  Apparently the gal had snuck in to the drawer just ahead of my tossing my purse in and there she crouched, silent, like the night.

Ben answers the phone, I tell him everything is fine and then confess the last hour’s horror of lostness.  All is forgiven for all is well.  I am so bucked up in my new confidence that I tease him about never having called to check to make sure that I made it home all right.  We laugh together.


I’ve written before about my tendency to Pollyanna things, to be the incurable optimist.  It has a price.

For some time, I had been thinking that Sidney was failing and that it might be time.  You know:  time to put her to sleep.* Yet I resisted, thinking that ‘nature’ should simply take its course.  It did not seem that she suffered, or if so, not much.  She wasn’t complaining.

But I had been thinking on it.

And then came yesterday morning.  When I got up, Sidney was already up, unusual these days.  She was walking in this odd sort of circle, when I realized that one of her back legs wasn’t working.  That leg served as a sort of anchor against which she tried in vain to navigate.  She finally broke the circling and managed to walk down the hall by leaning against the wall on the side of her problem leg.

Her prospects were becoming more clear, yet still I hesitated.  And called and talked to folk.  And read on the internet about geriatric cats.  And made the call – or more accurately had a friend who is a relative of the vet make the call.

Another friend had shared how she received confirmation in a comforting way during the dying process.

I too received confirmation.  But it wasn’t much comfort.  I’ve been there when another pet – a beloved dog, was put down, so I was familiar with the process, a bit different for cats, but not much.

This time, Sidney had lost so much weight that it took several attempts to find a vein for the injection.  There just wasn’t any there there anymore, for she was truly skin and bones.

And I had not noticed.  I noticed her slowing down.  I noticed she was thinner and eating less.  But somehow I failed to even notice that she had no fat, no flesh to her at all.

Ah Sidney, I owed you better than that, sure I did.

Perhaps now you reside in the land of perpetual fresh running water.  I sure hope so.

*How I do hate that euphemism.  And it is not how I think of it.  But I will spare you the language of my own internal dialogue on the matter.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cast Out of the Flock

We watched in the rain – the pouring rain – we few, we band of sister-brothers – the young couple with their baby protected by the carriage and Mama holding the umbrella while brave he took off shoes, found a box, jumped in the swirling channel of water and tried oh so hard to capture the wee bird in such need of rescue she could not imagine . . . they, a family of three . . . and the couple – boy-girl-friend (there needs to be a better adjective for those not-yet partnered) – she the brave and dedicated one of us all, hoisting herself over the legal fence into the land where the birds cavorted and perpetrated their murder, right before our eyes . . . and we – Rae Rae Rachel and I with umbrellas brandishing them like brooms more than swords in our efforts to swoop away the attackers.

What, oh what, was happening?

A duck – youngish – perhaps a teenager, its gender unclear to us but we call her her – for her lack of aggression, her acceptance of her fate without counter-attack – is attacked.  The young police officer, a knowing smile on his face later tells me (not unkindly) that this is what duck sex looks like.  What I think but do not say is that this is not the look of duck sex – this is the look of duck lynching . . . the feel of dark southern nights in decades gone by when the rich and the poor, trash all, gather in their collective whiteness and do away with one who is of their tribe if they had but eyes to see it.

Ducks and perhaps geese and definitely swans all gathered, sometimes allowing a little one-on-one and other times moving as one – like a mob unleashed, attacking this one young duck.

They ripped the feathers from her head, leaving a red blister of scalp from top to neck shining forth.  They tore feathers from her back, leaving a stripe of pink flesh down its back.  They pinned her to the ground and when she escaped in to the water, they pursued and tried to drown her.

The one of our number who braved the city’s fence tried in vain to catch her to bring her to a vet’s care, all to no avail, although the effort was Herculian.  The young man tried in vain a similar move – but she, our tiny would-be rescue, could not envision that we meant help rather than harm to her.

I know in my knower this wasn’t about sex, not even rape sex.  This was about shunning . . . outcasting . . . marginalizing . . . perhaps she is sick and the others sensed it and cast her from their midst.

After all, they attacked when she kept coming back, again and again, in to them – the heart of them.  When she withdrew finally at the last, going off a good distance, swimming away alone and upstream to waddle and limp her way under a tree – then and only then did the rest leave her to her own.

It was one of the loneliest . . . rending . . . things I have ever seen.

To be cast from the herd, the flock, the tribe – to be found wanting – to be sacrificed for the good of the many – to be seen as not one of us – oh my, oh my.

No, my dear young police fellow, this isn’t about sex.

This is about life.

And yes, I know they are sometimes the same thing.

But not always.

We humans, all in common cause for a time, drift dispiritedly away.  No one cares for the ducks.  They are on their own.  Maybe that is as it should be.  But this day, somehow it just seems wrong.  And I cannot shake the image of our young wounded one standing alone under a tree wondering (in the way of ducks) how the water and the others have become her enemies.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I prayed.  I don’t know what God’s answer is.  I don’t have to.  But I do know that even a duck in a city’s park can break a heart.

I am no expert on the behavior of water fowl.  The surprising thing in this episode for folks seemed to be that all the species in the city's pond attacked this one bird -- with even the swans getting in on the action.  The sites I've looked at this morning attribute aggressive behavior to mating.  But this wasn't aggression.  This bird had virtually all of its head feathers ripped out and enough from its back that there was a pink stripe of flesh down its back.  One site, Viva! USA, seems to attribute this behavior to aberrant behavior in the flock brought on by such things as overcrowding when seen in farming of the birds.

And as suggested in Multiscope, captivity itself is a source of stress causing feather picking, which, per this source at least, does not occur in the wild.

I do not know to what extent living in a pond in a city's park constitutes 'captivity' -- the birds are theoretically free to come and go, but the park provides houses and other shelters and food to keep the fowl at the pond.  What is free and what is captive?  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hobby Lobby Day 3: A Bit of Poetry & A Whole Lot of Rage

Why does it matter?
A reasonable question:
Why does it matter that
HL is a corporation?  Are 
not corporations simply
organizations or structures
made up of people?  And if
so, why does it matter to say
that a corporation has religion?

This a friend did ask
and this I did truly and seriously
ponder and this is what I walked
away with . . . 

Quite simply, it matters . . . 

Because it is not true
[and Truth does indeed matter]

Because it is not true 
A corporation is not a person
We call it a legal fiction
Fiction is another word for ‘not true’
Made up
A lie

in this case
a legal lie – 
meaning a lie
we agreed would be okay
because we all know it’s
a lie in advance – 

like Santa Claus
or the Easter Bunny
or Tooth Fairy
or “Yes, you look great in that dress”

yeah, like that

as a Christian
I do have to ask
exactly how it is
that a lie –
a self-professed lie
not just a liar –
as in someone who
sometimes lies – 
but a lie –
a thing which by
its very identity is
a sham, a pretense,
a farce, a false

yes, how that ‘thing’
that is Lie, albeit legal,
can be Truth?

I’m as fond of paradox as
the next person, but I tell
you, that dog won’t hunt
even if the cows and the chickens
do finally, at the last, come
home and come home to roost


Hobby Lobby had a prize
it’s truth – a pack of lies
that a SCOTUS – whatever that is – 
did say was true – ah, now we’re in biz!

Turns out you can be a bad Christian
so long as you’re not no Christian at all
and you get favors – the specialness
of your own peculiar brand of spe-ci-al-ity-ness
a prize – a ring – or perhaps a calf?
Oh now, let the cheating begin – at least by half

Your idolatry of your Christianity
would rouse hilarity if you had 
even a smidgeon of charity
but you are no-thing
so how can it even be?

It cannot

The Liars Club has met
and well met and it is 
so and we are done 
and undone and there
is no more laughter

not because it is a big
thing – no – truly you
are right – in and of –
itself – not so much –
but aye, here’s the rub –
finally we are unmasked
come out of our closet
and stood in the light
to be proudly revealed
and here we are –
a Christian nation

it would make a grown woman 
weep were it not so damned
funny – Christian, you see –
the follower of the Christ he
– that Way – would seem to 
say I am to take the irony
and give it another cheek –
and yes I do and yes I will –

but every now and then I do
wonder where’s Hobby’s
cheek, for I would surely
like to smite it and be forgiven
I would surely like to witness
that act of Christian fidelity
from a piece of paper filed 
away in a court house somewhere

and yes, my blood does boil
for I have not forgotten history
and the reasons that corporations
have existence in any form, 
fictitious or otherwise –
and let me assure you, 
it is not for the worship of God

never has been
never will be

and no, God does not need my defending
but thanks to SCOTUS, now I think I have
found it and it doth make me tremble –
for here stands the place where I make
the fool’s declaration

if there be corporations in heaven
then count me out . . . 

And surely this will make you laugh
and laugh some more – when it comes
to the ‘faith’ + corporations new math

[I do so love irony]

in its origins, 









[now wasn’t that worth the wait?]

Yes – to the government

to that very entity 
whose requirements 
the secret
to avoid

it too is one of them
it too, apparently may have a god
[as opposed, of course, to being one, 
as the ancients – and apparently a few
moderns – you know who you are – did
and do insist]

isn’t the irony fabulously rich?

And of course it does make sense
for a corporation to claim a religious
identity when one of the main historic
purposes of corporations was the survival
of the entity beyond the death of its members
the idea of perpetuity
isn’t that a grand word?

The other word, of course, is

You see – of course the corporation has a god
[you were merely surprised because you thought
it thought itself to be a god – we always love that one]

anything that’s going to claim infinity as its shelf life
darned well better have a god, after all

ah, but you thought our god was money
close – but not quite –
it’s not money we worship, you see –
rather, it’s money that is the expression of our faith

you sing
you praise
you thank

we make money

it’s all the same

isn’t it?


I think 
if I am
it is a 
of jealousy
I cannot be it
but alas
it can be me
and the sweeping
the canard of it all
does truly take my breath
my breathing me breath

and since presumably
it must choose
I wonder that a corporation
would ever choose to be
a woman

I would not were I it
for if I did
on my own petard
would I not be hoist?