Sunday, June 17, 2018

One good thing about getting older

I read 5 or 6 books a week, mostly mysteries but often a straight novel.

One I read yesterday and finished today is called The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin. I urge you to read it. Wondrous, disturbing, troubling and beautifully written. Go to the library and get it.

I get all my books from the Cheshire library. Bern sometimes buys a book on line. She just got a trilogy by Philip Pullman. The first book is The Golden Compass. They are fantasy. I used to love fantasy--Ursela La Guinn, the Harry Potter books, the Game of Thrones books. But I don't read it much now. I'm starting, tonight, The Book of Dust by the aforementioned Pullman. It's the first of a new trilogy. Bern insists I try it. I'll let you know.

But one great thing about getting older and losing a bit of memory is that I sometimes get a book and realize I've read it but I don't quite remember how it turned out and so I read it again.

I've got a Linsey/Havers mystery I've read before but am going to read again.

That's pretty cool--to enjoy something twice.

Getting older isn't all bad--nevermind my knees.....

Crossing the line

I try not to talk about politics in my sermons. There's no one listening who hasn't figured out how ultra-liberal, socialist-democrat I am, so I don't have to point that out in sermon time.

Secondly, religion and politics--like church and state--should have a line between them. They just should. There are lots of right-wing churches who tell their members who to vote for that I believe should be stripped of their non-profit status. Just me talkin'--but talkin' true.

But today, I crossed the line in my sermon at St. James, Higganum. I crossed over into a political debate that I think is also a theological and moral debate: the separation of children and parents if they cross the boarder illegally.

The Administration keeps saying they're enforcing 'the law'--which isn't true. They are forming policy by interpreting the law in a way they want to. The same law they point to has been in place for at least two administrations before this and neither Bush nor Obama chose to interpret it the way the current President has.

And, truth be known, the President, in my mind is using this immoral and un-American tactic to get a vote on immigration in the Congress that he will only sign if it includes funding for his maniacal 'wall' across the southern boarder. Folks in the White House know how heinous this separation of children from parents is--but they're using it as a bargaining chip...which makes it all the more despicable.

I was freed to cross the line by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who quoted from Romans 13 to justify 'enforcing the law'. And Paul does say a lot in that chapter about obeying 'civil authorities'. I would remind you he was writing in a time when being a Christian was illegal in the Roman Empire and it only made good sense to stay below the radar by 'obeying authority'.

What enraged me was that Sessions (a Methodist Sunday School teacher for heaven's sake!) must not have read the previous chapter of Roman. In Chapter 12 Paul advises us to 'share what you have with those in need' and 'to welcome the stranger into your house'.

That sounds like a pretty moral and sensible immigration policy to me--one that this country has, for much of it's history followed.

Unless you are 100% Native American, your ancestors came to these shores longing for a better life. And they built our nation up. Diversity is the hallmark of America. Today's immigrant is tomorrow's hard working citizen.

But even if you have some more conservative view than the 'open boarder view' I have, you must acknowledge that ripping children from their parents' arms is hideous and wrong and must, must, please God, stop!

(One man after church told me, "I wish you hadn't preached that sermon because now I have to do something." Perhaps the best comment I ever got about a sermon.)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Eleanor and Brooklyn

So, we take the train to Grand Central from New Haven. Then we ride the 4 or 5 subway (doesn't matter which) to Atlantic Avenue/Barclay Center. We used to be within 2 blocks of Tim and Mimi's apartment from there--but now it it a 20 minute walk and we're not going to do that!

No taxi available so Tim comes to get us.

Then he goes to work and we spend the day with Eleanor. Joy.

She'll be two in August but talks like a champ and is almost never unhappy.

She and Bern were out on the balcony for almost an hour with soapy water in a big bowl and some of her toys which she washed more than they needed and she watered Tim's tomato plants and flowers. The tomatoes are way ahead of ours in CT!

I sat near and watched them, but Tim and Mimi and Eleanor live on the 13th floor and I cannot--cannot--go out on the balcony. It freaks me out. Heights.

Eleanor ate whatever we gave here--cheese, organic chicken noodle soup, tangerines--took an over an hour nap and since it was Friday and Tim and Mimi have 'those kind of jobs', they were both  home before 5 p.m.

Bern taught Eleanor to say "ooo-la-la" though she said it "ooo-la-la-la" to both of her parents when they came home.

Then an Uber to Atlantic Avenue and the subway to Grand Central and a train to New Haven and a car to Cheshire.

A wondrous day.

But I'm not sure I could live in Brooklyn or any of NYC. Too many people on too many cell phones in too big a hurry.

A block or two from Mimi/Tim/Eleanor--an area where all you need is a block or two away--maybe, just to be near them.

But I'm just not sure. I'm too old for city life. I like it fine--love it, in fact--here  in Cheshire, our house surrounded by trees, lots of birds, not much to do.

July 4 we're going to the Bradley/Chen's in Baltimore to see those three granddaughters.

Life is good. Watching the flesh of our flesh growing and prospering is wondrous.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

choices we make

I was looking at an almost 25 year old photo album tonight. Pictures from when Bern and Mimi and I visited Josh in England.

After college Josh got a green card for England in some program and went to live and work there for a year. He worked in a pub near Chelsea's soccer stadium, so it was a very busy pub. Most of the people who worked there were foreigners like Josh and lived in a dormitory behind the pub.

While he was there he dated a young woman named Anna, from Columbia, I think. There are several pictures of her in the album. She is lovely--though every woman Josh ever dated was lovey--and her face looking at Bern and Mimi and Josh shows great honesty and affection.

I liked her a lot, in that brief visit. But then I liked every girl Josh dated except for one from UMass.

They had their time and chose, one or the other of them, to move on.

What if they hadn't?

Where would Cathy, our daughter in law, have ended up? We would never have had Morgan, Emma and Tegan to love.

What is wondrous to ponder is how every choice we make in life ripples out.

It's why I choose (I hope I'm getting  'chose' and choose' right! a tough one for me) to have no regrets. To regret anything I did or didn't do would alter the reality of today--June 13, 2018 wouldn't be what it is if I had made a different choice at any point in life.

And I simply adore and am eternally grateful for my life as it is this day.

So, no regrets.

I made stupid choices along with brilliant ones, but they led me to this moment and this moment is where I want to be.

So, as I said, no regrets.

(Regrets, it seems to me, come to the fore when life hasn't turned out well. I understand that and feel compassion for those in that place. But if you are satisfied and joyful with you life, regret not....just me talkin'....)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Road to Wisdom

Armand Gamache, the lead in Louise Penny's series about the village of Three Pines in Quebec, tells young people the four things you need to learn to say to find wisdom.

They are: "I don't know." "I'm sorry." "I need your help." And "I was wrong."

I don't have much to add.

Think about what a different world we would live in if everyone learned how to say those four things.

I don't know.

I'm sorry.

I need your help.

I was wrong.

Think how different politicians would be if they learned to say those four things.

Imagine a world and a country on the road to wisdom....

Monday, June 11, 2018


One of the best things about being retired--besides reading 5 or 6 books a week--is that I get to 'laze'.

I sleep very well for an aging man--better than I did when I was younger, in fact. But almost as good as sleeping in laze-ing.

I often wake up at 5 a.m. or so to go to the bathroom, but I go right back to sleep until I feel Bern waking up at around 7. Then I sleep again until 8:30 or thereabout. Then I laze.

Laze-ing is my word for just staying in bed, though awake, for another 45 minutes or so.

Bern likes alone time in the morning, so it suits her fine. And I love it.

I'm not trying to go back to sleep, I'm just enjoying being awake in a comfortable bed with my eyes closed, day-dreaming some or remembering something or just laying there.

(I used to have a poster in my office at St. Paul's, New Haven that had a drawing of a easy chair and the words: "Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits....")

That describes laze-ing. Sometimes I laze and thinks and sometimes I just laze....

Most people I've shared this pleasurable practice with look at me like I'm crazy.

They can't stay a-bed once awake or think it is wasting time or just don't get it in any way.

But I get it. And love it.

I'm an accomplished "laze-er".

I recommend it highly. Try it sometimes, even if you think it's nuts.

I'd like a small community of "Laze-ers" to commiserate with from time to time....

Sunday, June 10, 2018


(This is more than nine years old. It was one of my first dozen or so posts. Thought I'd share it again since it's rained so much this spring.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It is raining now. I hear it through the open window of the little office space where I sit and type.

Rain. how wondrous the sound, the smell, the dampness of it all. Calling the world back to life after a long winter.

I love the rain.

The only poem I've written that I can remember that has to do with rain is this one--and you have to wait until near the end to find the patient, it is, after all, a virtue.


I am surrounded by poetry
I will never write.

The old man down the block
with his droopy moustache
and the dog he used to walk, long dead now.
The particular shade of orange in this morning's sky
and the wondrous pink as evening came.
The down on the neck of a woman I once loved
who never knew I loved her.
And her seashell ears.
The bend of her slim elbow.
Her ears--I mentioned that already.
The leafy, logical pattern of ice on my windshield
one January morning--
like something a chaos physicist
would have adored.
What smoke feels like in my lungs
when I inhaled deeply on a cigarette.
The particular color of the eyes
of a crazy man I talked to and gave two dollars today.
My dreams--coming on me like a tsunami these days--
endless vistas with old friends,
walking through amber when I need to run,
conversations with those long dead,
hard work to accomplish less than nothing.
The smell of skunk standing on my deck.
The taste of coffee ice cream.
The feel of the hair of my Puli dog.
The sight of a woman, walking fast,
staying in shape, fending off death,
by walking fast past my house.
Hearing anything by Mozart on the radio.
And just the way it feels to be inside my skin,
how I can count my bones,
if I would stand still long enough
and count.
The many ways I imagine death.

And there is no time, no time at all,
since I am growing old.
There is no time, no time at all,
to write the poems that surround me.

And what about the dimples my daughter has?
And the strange way new money looks?
And how my wine glass is empty?
And the wear on the 'n' on my keyboard?
And how the ringing in my ears is sometimes a sonata?
And what the night sky resembles?
And the air under my fingernails and the gaps between my teeth?
And the sound of rain, rain's smell, all of raining.

What is unworthy of a poem?
Nothing, so far as I can see.

And I don't have the time.
Surrounded by poetry, I have no time to write.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


I'm part of a baptism tomorrow for a baby named after his paternal father and grandfather. Back where I come from anyone with a "III" after his name would be called 'Trey", which I'm hoping they won't do.

Baptism is something I try to explain in my sermon for a baptism.

I'm clear in my head and heart that God doesn't love someone 'better' once they are baptized. They are already a beloved child of God before the water is poured and the oil is smeared and the words are spoken.

Baptism isn't about God's love--it is about belonging to something larger than yourself.

In baptism you become a part of a family much larger and far reaching than your biological family.

You become a part of the "Christian Family" in all times and all places.

You are 'marked as Christ's own forever' as I'll say tomorrow smearing the oil of chrism in the sign of a cross on the baby's forehead.

That's what baptism is about--becoming part of the Christian community--past, present and yet unborn.

If I remember tomorrow (I seldom write down sermons these days) I'll remind people that when they come to the altar rail they should look to their left and imagine the rail stretching back 20 Centuries and seeing the Christians who came before us. And I'll invite them to look to the right and imagine the rail stretching out to infinity with all the Christians yet unborn kneeling with them.

That's what baptism is about--becoming part of a family and tradition, ancient and present and yet to be. A family and a tradition so large you can't begin to comprehend it.

The Communion of Saints--past, present and yet to be.

Pretty special, I think....

Thursday, June 7, 2018

I'm a lot like that

I looked at my cell phone before going to be (it's 11:04 here on the East Coast) and saw I got a message from A. saying "I'll be 10 minutes late."

She was. Three of us were waiting for her at the Cozy Corner for the Cluster Officers meeting.

What she doesn't get is that I don't carry my cell phone around with me. And  I've been home two hours without looking at it.

For some reason--I think it's because I went to Arizona, but I could be wrong--I don't get emails on my phone anymore. Several people have told me they could fix that but I don't want to. I only want emails on my desktop computer that I only look at once a day.

If you want to contact me, call my home line or send me a letter or drop by.

I look at my cell phone maybe three times a day and almost never have it with me if I'm out.

Why should I?

I'll get your email each evening, when I'm not out of town--then I'll get it when I get home.

Texting is still a mystery to me. I can look at them and reply, but seldom do.

Call my land line, write a letter, drop by.

That's the best I can do for 'being available'.

And I like it like that.

some stuff

I don't have anything profound to write about today so I'll just share some trivia with  you.

1. Our daughter-in-law has just be appointed as a judge in Baltimore. She has been a prosecutor for the last few years and before that defended abused spouses for a non-profit Do I have to call here "your honor" from now on?

2. Our granddaughter Eleanor has had 4 febrile seizures in the last 6 months. But she's been to pediatric neurologists at Cornell and Columbia (ah, to live in NYC) and has been on medication to keep her inexplicable fevers down. Good new is almost all kids grow out of them. Bad news is, it is so scary....Hold her in your heart.

3. Having lunch with my bishop tomorrow. We've know each other for 35 years and have lunch from time to time, but I suspect he wants to talk about the Cluster I serve very part time. I've been the interim for 7 years (a 'long' interim in the Episcopal church is 2 years!) and though the churches are doing quite well, thanks to God and those people, he probably wants to talk about my replacement,. I'm 1//4 time and he thinks they need 1/2 time priest. I don't think so. Could be an interesting conversation....

4. Had dinner with the officers of the Cluster tonight and, surprise, surprise, we talked about the stuff in #3. They are so great, the three of them. I love and respect them to death.

5. We're having the floor of our back porch replaced and work done on our front porch. I have to call the Historical Society guy tomorrow--they approved the back porch (and why not?) and one of the members of the committee is a neighbor who things the front porch thing is 'repair' and doesn't need the approval of what another neighbor calls "The Hysterical Society". If you live in an historic district--God bless you. If you don't, don't move into one....

6. I've been having strange but wonderful dreams lately. I remember them when I wake up and should write them down immediately as I did for years in Jungian therapy. But I don't and forget them. But they are strange and wonderful. Perhaps my 'unconscious' is rewarding me for how well-balanced and happy I am.....Well, I said 'maybe'.

7. I don't have the energy to write anything about our President tonight, but I did hear a long interview with a political scientist who wrote a book about how 'freedom' and democracy is undermined by a culture of lies and conspiracy theories and causing division and demands for absolute loyalty and denigration of dissent. The writer sees it around the free world. I see it everyday here by a man who has made a 'waving idol' of the flag I love and an alternative reality out of the country I would die for.

8. To follow up on #7, Bern gave me a cup with a quote from the social activist/comedian Bill Mahr that says, "I'm mostly pissed off that more people aren't pissed off."  That's how I feel most of the time about the current administration.

9. Could you please get a little more pissed off and get some more people to. Please! And soon!

(See you when I have something profound to write about....)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Most of our lives

This afternoon, with no prompting or agenda, Bern came from the back porch into the kitchen, where I was fixing dinner, and said, "I'm glad I've spent most of my life with you."

I embraced her and, choking back tears, whispered, "Me too. Me too."

She was 14 and I was 17 when we met. That means we've known each other for most of our lives--53 years, to be exact. On September 5, at Long Beach, North Carolina, we will celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.

That qualifies as 'most of our lives' and more.

Much more.

There's no gift in heaven or on earth that would be more precious to me than that simple ten word sentence she spoke to me this late afternoon.

I can't find it

I told the story Sunday in my sermon about my call to priesthood. It was in response to the Hebrew Scripture Lesson about the call of Samuel. I thought surely I'd posted that chapter from a manuscript I've worked on called Tend the Fire, Tell the Story, Pass the Wine, which is the title my friend, Ann, suggested. I wish I'd thought of it.

But I've searched the posts (over 2100 of them) and couldn't find it. If I posted it before I apologize for doing so again.

This is much longer than what I said Sunday.

I.  The Archangel Mariah
         The one question that drives people in seminary crazy is this: “Why do you want to be a priest?”
          There are several reasons that question so bedevils those studying for Holy Orders. First of all, everyone and their cousin has asked you that since the first moment you imagined it might be a possibility—your being a priest and all. There is no end to the people wanting to know why you want to be a priest—those already parish priests, discernment groups, bishops, commissions on ministry, standing committees, admission committees, seminary professors, strangers you meet at cocktail parties, on and on....there is no end to the people wanting to know why you want to be a priest.
          A second reason is that a call to a priest is, primarily that: an invitation from God to you. It's a deeply personal and profoundly important event or series of events. There is, even in this era of “tell all”, some need for privacy. If what God has to suggest in your heart of hearts isn't one of those things you have a right to keep to yourself, then what is?
          But finally, the most prominent reason nobody in seminary wants to answer that question is that, on the deepest level, you don't have a clue!  For most of the priests I know—not all, certainly, but most—the 'call to priesthood' was as complex as a jet engine. There are lots of parts to it, most of which can't be extricated or distinguished from the parts right next to them or at either end of the whole contraption. I doubt that there are many people who can explain all the intricacies of a jet engine. The same is true, it seems to me, about a call to ordination.
          I once witnessed one of my seminary classmates lose it when asked the question. We were at some reception or another at Virginia Seminary and a well-meaning, sincere woman was talking with him ans asked, “Why do you want to be a priest?”
          He took a gulp of sherry and said, “One night I was sleeping naked with my window open during a thunderstorm” (being southern, he said 'necked' instead of 'naked') “and lightening came in my window, struck me on the genitals and didn't kill me....It was either become a priest or go live in Tibet.”
          I swear this really happened.
          Once the woman recovered from apoplexy, she said, in a gentle Tidewater Virginia accent, “I imagine that doesn't happen often.”
          “Only once to me,” my friend said, looking around for more sherry.
          My friend, Scott, when he was a seminarian at Yale and working with me at St. Paul's, New Haven, told me he was about to lose his mind with the Standing Committee in the Diocese of West Virginia.
          “No matter how many times I tell them,” he said, “or how many different ways, they ask me again.”
          “Why don't you tell them you want to be Magic?” I asked.
          Scott laughed. “Are you crazy?” he said.
          “Who knows,” I told him, “it might shut them up.”
          After I preached at his ordination, Scott gave me a wondrous pen and ink sketch based on 'being magic'. It's here in my little office with me. I still love it, two decades later.
          I don't have to resort to tales of lightning storms or the longing to be magic. I know why I decided to be a priest. The sky didn't open up. I didn't hear God speak to me out loud and in English. It was simpler and yet more marvelous than any of that.
          I was visited by the Archangel Mariah.
          Mariah was the only member of St. Gabrial's mission, the campus ministry at West Virginia University, back in the late 60's and early 70's who was older than 35 besides Snork, the priest. Mariah was in her late-70's back then. St. Gabrial's had a ministry of hosting international students in the basement of Trinity Church on Friday nights for games and food and companionship. Mariah was the source of that ministry. That's one reason she came to St. Gabe's. The other reason was that she wanted to be around young people. She couldn't stand stuffiness in any guise. The three-piece suits and women in hats at Trinity's services were too much for her. She preferred the company of college students and week-end hippies.
          I strain to remember her over 40 years of memories. She was a tiny woman—no more than 5'2” and most likely about 90 pounds fully clothed and soaking wet. She had wild gray hair that she wore tied back as best she could. And there was her face: her eyes were an indescribable color—blue, green, hazel in different light—and lost in the most remarkable set of smile wrinkles I've ever seen. Mariah smiled and laughed so much that she tended to look a tad Asian—there were small spaces for her eyes to shine through. She had all her own teeth and showed them off smiling and laughing. Her face, in spite of her age, was actually 'girlish', elfin, like the face of a loris or a lemur—some exotic animal whose name begins with an L.
          Mariah's passion (what Joseph Campbell would have called her 'bliss') was the international students at WVU. Every Friday night you could find her in Trinity's undercroft playing card games and listening, playing backgammon and listening, playing some American board game and listening. She was always listening to the young people from faraway places with strange sounding names. WVU had a remarkable Engineering program so there were hundreds of students, mostly young me, from Third World Countries studying in the part of the middle of Nowhere called Morgantown, West Virginia. One of the informal courses they were forced to study on their own was Culture Shock 101. In the '70's there were no ethnic enclaves in Morgantown, unless you consider Rednecks and Sorority Girls ethnic groups. Those students from Africa, Asia, central Europe and the Middle East had no contact with their homelands besides each other. There was no Internet back then and international phone calls were still ridiculously expensive. It wasn't like living in New York or DC. Morgantown was referred to by many of the students at WVU—many of whom, like me, were from the sticks to begin with—as “Morgan Hole”.
          At that time, there wasn't much in Morgantown for anyone, much less people thousands of miles from home. And nobody much was interested in the well-being of those foreign students except Mariah. Mariah was interested in them with a vengeance.
          She welcomed them into Trinity's basement, into her home and into her vast, expansive heart. She got them to write home for recipes and tried to reproduce them as best she could from the local Kroger's selection of foods and spices. She tried to learn enough of their languages so she could greet each of them as they would be greeted at home. She matched them up with people and the University and in town—all of whom she seemed to know—who might have some faint connection to or interest in Afghanistan or Bulgaria or Korea or wherever they were from. She was a one-woman network of 'connections' for those folks so far from home, those strangers in an oh so strange land.
          There was something biblical in her commitment to the strangers in her midst. She would welcome them all and do any and everything possible to make them a little less anxious about finding themselves plunked down in such a place as Morgantown. Mariah was sometimes the victim of those she befriended. Being from a different culture and far from home doesn't make someone trustworthy. If there is a lesson to be learned from working with any minority group—racial, cultural or economic—it is this: People, so far as I've been able to discern, are, in the end, 'just People'. We all share the same deep-down 'being of human beings'. The international students Mariah dedicated her energy to were no different than the outsiders and oddballs Snork loved and cared for—that is, some of them will rip you off big time!
          The Lord only knows how much money Mariah parceled out to foreign students. And surely only the Lord knows how much of that money could have just as well been tossed of the bridge over Cheat Lake. But she never fretted about it. That's what she told me when I spoke to her after seeing $100 or so pass from her hand to the hand of a Nigerian I knew loved to gamble.
          “Never mind,” Mariah told me, “I'll just let God sort it all out.”
          On one level, that is ultimate foolishness. On another, deeper level, it may just be one of the best ways possible to live a life. And that, above all, was what Mariah was good at—living wondrously and well. I've never had the courage to live letting God 'sort it all out', but it certainly worked for Mariah.
          While I was working as a social worker, Bern and I lived in the third-floor apartment of a three-story house down a charming brick street in Morgantown. During our time there, the home base for St. Gabriel’s Wednesday evening Eucharists was the attic of that house, accessible only through our apartment. We would gather up there—20 or 30 of us—and celebrate the holy mysteries seated on the unpainted floor. When we passed the peace, there was always the danger of getting a concussion from smacking your noggin on the exposed beams. It was a dimly lit, uncomfortable space, but it served quite nicely as the upper room of St. Gabe's.
          It was after one of those outrageously informal communions that Mariah, who I had already determined was a saint (St. Mariah of the Nations) revealed herself as an Archangel. After Mass—if I can dream of calling our attic worship that! --we would all retreat down the stairs to our apartment. There was always food. People brought cooking and brownies (often with a special ingredient) cheese and home-baked bread, fruit both dried and fresh, nuts and seeds and we'd have some feasting. Plus, there was always a lot of wine. Some of St. Gabe's regulars would go down on the front porch to smoke a joint—not normal, I suppose, for most Episcopal coffee hours.
          I was in the kitchen with Mariah. She'd managed to get me there alone by some miracle since people tended to clump around her wherever she was. There was something about how intently she listened to whatever nonsense you had to say that made her a people magnet. But we were alone in the kitchen when she said to me, balancing her plastic wine glass and a handful of cheese with remarkable grace. Then she said, “When are you going back to seminary and get ordained?”
          I was three glasses of wine and a trip to the porch past whatever state of sober grace the Body and Blood of Christ had given me up in the attic. I was then, as I am to some extent today, a 'smart ass'. Ironic and Sardonic were my middle names in those days. I can still be depended upon to lower or deflate whatever serious conversation I come upon. “Nothing is serious or sacred” has been my motto most of my life. I never realized how annoying that can be until my son demonstrated, in his teen years, a genetic predisposition to that same world view.
          So, in my cups, you might say, I replied in a typically smart ass way.
          “My dear Mariah,” I said, “I'll go back to seminary and get ordained when I get a personal message from God Almighty.”
          She smiled that smile that made her eyes almost disappear and, after a healthy drink of what I assure you was not good wine (we drank only that vintage in those days) said words that changed my life forever.
          “Jim,” she said, “who in the hell do you think sent me and told me what to say?”
          Never, before or after, did such a word as 'hell' pass through Mariah's sainted lips. She was never even mildly profane. I stared at her, suddenly as sober as a Mormon or a Muslim or both at the same time.
          She finished her cheese, put her wine glass in the sink and embraced me. I held her like a fragile bird. She kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, “You've got your message....”
          She left me in my kitchen with dry ice in my veins and some large mammal's paw clutching my heart. I found it hard to breathe. Two trips to the porch and a full juice glass of the Wild Turkey I kept hidden under the sink on Wednesday nights changed nothing.
          I called the bishop the next morning. Only after I had an appointment with him could I tell Bern what insanity I was up to and breathe properly again.

          Mariah died a few months later. I was one of her pallbearers. She was as light as air for us to carry—three international students and three members of St. Gabriel’s carried her. Archangels don't weight much. They are mostly feathers and Spirit. She was buried from Trinity Church. Snork did the service and did her proud in his homily of thanksgiving for so rare a soul. I had just been accepted to Virginia Seminary. Bern was in New York acting in an off-Broadway show. We would meet up in Alexandria in September.
          Mariah's granddaughter, who was a member of St. Gabe's as well, embraced me at the reception following the funeral. It was in the basement of Trinity Church where Mariah had spent so many Friday nights. Many of the foreign students brought ethic food. Clara told me Mariah had asked about me on the day she died. I'd left my acceptance letter in Snork's office and he'd shown it to Clara. I hadn't tried to call when it came since Mariah was in the Intensive Care Unit. Her so full and generous heart had simply worn out from so much loving.
          So, it was Clara that told Mariah I was accepted at VTS. Clara said her grandmother smiled that eye disappearing smile when she heard. She smiled through her great weakness.
          “You tell Jim,” she whispered to Clara, “that I told him so....”
          Her last words for me: “I told you so.”
          That works for me. That will do nicely.

from years ago

quite a while ago--over 4 years, I posted this. Worth a re-post.

litter boxes

For those of you who don't have cat companions on your journey through this life, the ONE things that you are blessed by whatever gods there be is this: you never have to clean a litter box.

Cleaning litter boxes is roughly equivalent to mucking out the horses' stalls each day, though I realize there is less to muck out, though it is no less odious. And where horse poop, since they only eat grain, is useful in a couple of ways, the poop of cats, full of animal protein, is useless and smells bad.

One of my few regular jobs is to clean the litter box for our 'last cat' (as Bern calls him) Lukie.

We used to have four cats (one cat short of  'excentric' I'd say) so my regular job was even more demanding since they all used the same litter box, just at the bottom of the back staircase. But as Luke has grown older (just like me) he seems to relieve himself in both ways more often.

Another of my jobs in our household is to take out the garbage and recycling each week.

I'm the garbage man in our home.

I don't mind it at all, really. It is a very rewarding avocation. I get to 'clean up' the messes of our lives. And that, in its own way, a noble pursuit.

In fact (I think I've pondered it before but it worth a new pondering) I think the three highest paying jobs in our culture should be the 'cleaning up' jobs: Day Care workers, trash collectors and nursing home workers.

It's remarkable to me how we don't honor and actually actively degrade the folks who clean up our messes. A trash collector in a union does ok, but they should be paid what partners in law firms make. If they didn't come every week and take the flotsam and jetsam of our lives away we'd soon be swimming in the filth of our own making. But the folks we entrust our children and our elders to are grossly underpaid as well. How our culture works is that we express the 'value' of work through dollars. Yet the people we trust with the beginnings and endings of our lives are not compensated in any way according to the 'value' they give us.

Those three groups of workers clean the litter boxes of our lives. We should honor, celebrate and reward them.

Yet, they do the jobs we don't want to do and are ignored. Too bad for them--and ultimately, too bad for us. You do, in some way, get what you pay for....

Saturday, June 2, 2018


Where we live there are multitudes of birds.

They usually wake me up calling to the dawn but I go back to sleep.

Late this afternoon, as I was grilling dinner--grilled asparagus and onion, steak and a salad if you care--the rain had stopped and the birds were catching up with each other big time.

I even love the caw of the crows. The occasional yip of the neighborhood hawks is a gift.

I fancy I can whistle and imitate some of the calls. Not always, but sometimes I carry on a short conversation with a a bird. Cardinals I'm pretty good at.

Some house wrens nest in the exhaust line from our downstairs bathroom. You can hear them as you brush your teeth (and do other things one does in a bathroom as well!) It's a long exhaust so the fan doesn't bother them, I don't guess, or they wouldn't come back year after year.

A robin used to nest on the unused alarm on our front porch--since we don't have an alarm system (shouldn't put that on line, probably)--but after several years of young robins, the last time we painted the porch they never came back.

More blue jays this year than normal. Bern doesn't like them--they're bossy.

A sparrow sat on the other chair as I was reading on the deck a few mornings ago. He/she hopped around for a long time and tweeted at me. It was great.

In September we'll make our annual pilgrimage to Oak Island, NC where there is the largest nesting place of brown pelicans on the east coast and lots of birds that don't come to Connecticut.

We used to have birds in our house, but I much prefer them outside--though the parakeets constant songs were soothing.

Birds need to soar as they sing.

At least I think so.

In case you haven't noticed--I love birds.

Sometimes on Route 9 going to Higganum, I see lots of hawks and the occasional eagle. I'm lucky I don't wreck watching them.

Which reminds me, I need to go to Hamden soon to see the swans.

Take some time to listen to the birds around you.

Something or other like Glory....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.