Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maundy Thursday

Today is my favorite holy day of the year--Maundy Thursday.

You probably know that 'Maundy' is derived from the Latin 'mandatum' which is translated 'commandment--also is root of English word 'mandate'.

This is the night Jesus gave the disciples "a new commandment" (in John's Gospel which has three chapters of 'table talk'!) "Love one another as I have loved you." That commandment would be enough reason to love Maundy Thursday, but for me it's more.

It is the night we celebrate Jesus' Passover meal (In Matthew, Mark and Luke) and Jesus' last meal with the disciples (in John).

The timing is different because John's Gospel has Jesus die on the day of Preparation for the Passover so 'the lamb of God' would die as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered.

Anyway, in all four, they are around a table eating. In John, Jesus washes his friends' feet. In the Synoptic gospels he blesses the bread for Passover and the cup of Elijah.

So, the Christian Eucharist is born. 'Eucharist' from the Greek 'eucharistia', which means 'thanksgiving'. Jesus takes the bread and 'gives thanks' and 'gives thanks' for the wine, sharing both. Which is what we do in the Communion service.

(Just to make it clear: Episcopalians believe in 'the Real Presence' of Jesus' Body and Blood in the bread and wine. We don't have--most of us--any belief in 'transubstantiation' or 'consubstantiation'. We draw our theology from no less a theologian than Queen Elizabeth the First who, queried by someone trying to make her into a Papist, "what do you believe about the bread and wine?" answered, "As Christ spake it and the priest brake it, I take it."

I love theology that rhymes!

At the end of the Maundy Thursday Liturgy, which begins around a table with an Agape Meal the altar is stripped for Good Friday. ('Agape' is the third Greek word we translate 'love'--after 'Eros' and 'Philios'...erotic and brotherly/sisterly love.) Agape is the word Jesus uses for his love and his Father's love and the love we are called to--selfless and self-giving. I wash the altar with consecrated wine and water and leave the bread and wine for communion from the reserved sacrament of Good Friday that I blessed tonight. Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the two days that bread and wine may not be blessed.

But the feast of Maundy Thursday is a precursor of the great feast of Easter.

Love around a table full of food is for me the best love of all.

Around our table this year will be both our children (Josh and Mimi) and their mates (Cathy and Tim) and our four granddaughters--Emma, Morgan and Tegan Bradley and Eleanor McCarthy--along with 4 of our oldest friends--John (West Virginia, knew him from WVU) Jack (Virginia) and Sherry (South Carolina) Ellis and their son Robbie, a few years older than Josh. What an amazing gathering for us!

Our children grew up with Robbie Ellis so we've know them all for nearly 40 years and John for 45 or more.

Such joy sitting at a table with such 'family'.

This will be the Easter Event I need after Bela's death.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

why have I never worndered before?

You probably have wondered and probably already know.

But before just a while ago, I have never in my 70+ years of life, wondered what a.m. and p.m. stand for.

A.m. is ante meridem--before noon. And p.m. is "post..."--after noon.

At least I'm still pondering stuff I've never pondered before.

That's something.


I hope so.

11 days into our new life

It's been 11 days since our Puli, Bela, was euthanized. I'm not used to him being gone by a long shot--but I can think out him without tearing up.

Mostly my thoughts are nostalgic for the life he had with Bern and me.

Taking him out for three walks a day and a night pit stop in the back yard. Making his food and feeding him twice a day--we literally 'made' half his food with vegetables and different meats and rice to mix with top of the line dry food. Putting up with his barking and limiting who could visit us because he could be aggressive toward strangers. Keeping all his water bowls fresh. Giving treats for good (and, let's face it, 'not so good') behavior. Having to find a way to be home for any and all of the above.

In other words, all the things that used to mildly annoy me about having him are now nostalgic.

At three p.m. every day, I say to myself: "time to feed the Puli...."

I even miss the helping him up and down steps of the last two months of his life.

I miss him so.

Difference is that now I can 'miss him' with a lump in my throat rather than tears in my eyes.

Progress, I guess you could call it.

I'm more able to be thankful for our years with him than distraught by his not being here anymore...

It's better than it was. But I won't forget him, I promise you that.

Our Good Friday came a week early.

I'm ready for an Easter event....

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Beyond all believing...

The single most outrageous, stupid, wrong-minded, insulting, insensitive, (did I say stupid already?), embarrassing, backward, wrong-assed thing anyone said or could have said about the protest on Saturday against gun violence against students.

"How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problems, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where is a violent shooter."
                                         --RICK SANTORUM

Just to begin with--isn't it the role of adults to 'solve' the problems of kids?

And shouldn't we try to do that?

And there is still a constitution and a role of adults, don't the kids have a God given right to ask us to keep them safe?

And why should they have to deal with more school shootings--with Santorum implies they will?

What the hell is not wrong and crazy about what he said on TV?

And I quoted him accurately.

Holy S***, how nuts is he???????

(I have never put that may question marks after a question before.)

Rick, get a therapist--you are really out of touch with reality....

Beyond all believing, that was....


"Stormy weather...."

Just watched the interview of Stormy Daniels by Anderson Cooper.

She is calm, cool, collected and profoundly believable.

And if I ever need a lawyer, I want her guy. He is wonderful.

Go to This Week Tonight and watch John Oliver's 20+ minute examination of Mike Pence.

Here's the problem: as much as I want Trump gone, we'd have Pence for two years!

I wish I'd wake up tomorrow in 'No Drama Obama's" world instead of this unreality we call Trump world.

I just was peace and calm. I just want the government to grind on without anything other than boring competence.

I don't like it here.

I want out.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Just put it all together

I got out of bed at 10:15 this morning.

I wasn't hungry but forced myself to eat some cereal.

I tried to read and couldn't focus.

Then I read yesterday's dismal post.

I just put it all together--I'm a bit depressed about losing Bela.

I've never really been depressed much, so I didn't recognize it until now.

Now that I'm aware of it, I'll start managing it instead of it managing me....

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I come up alone

It's 10:48 here in Connecticut and I came up the stairs alone to stop and write this and then go to bed.

Part of my 'alone-ness' is that our Puli, Bela, is not here.

But that, I realize, is only part of it.

We are always 'alone'.

Soon, I'll be in bed with Bern, the love of my life. We will be together but we will both be 'alone'.

There are parts of her I will never comprehend. And the same goes for her trying to comprehend me.

Even in a crowd, we are 'alone'. There are things no one can ever know about any one of us. We are each a planet around some sun--distinct and alone.

Our dog died with Dr. Matz, the best vet ever, and Travis, her assistant, a boy of 21 or less, and me rubbing him and talking to him. And, in spite of all that, Bela died alone.

His death gave me this remarkable and worth pondering insight: we are finally, completely, absolutely 'alone'.

Each of us has secretes and thoughts and realities no one else can ever know, even if they wish to know them.

Alone, we are.


I have to ponder the reality of that for a while.

I'll ponder it alone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Snow and The Snows of Kilimanjaro

I read a great article in The Washington Post today comparing the Stormy Daniels drama to the death of Harry in Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In the book Harry, after climbing the great mountain and risking his life, gets a scratch on his arm that turns to gangrene. The truck breaks down and the rescue plane is late and Harry dies, dreaming of the mountain.

It wasn't the mountain that killed him, it was a scratch and the failure of vehicles.

Snow is coming tomorrow, they tell me. Another March storm. There seems to have been one a week in New England this month.

And Richard Cohen, the author of that article contends it will be Stormy Daniels--a minor scratch on Donald Trump's arm--that will bring him down, not the Mountain of Mueller's investigation.

I also saw today a political cartoon by Sheneman of the Tribune Group that showed Trump in his extra long red tie, with Stormy on his arm, saying to a man with a tied with a cross on it: "Look the other way and I'll keep shilling for your version of Jesus who doesn't like poor people and immigrants."

The grinning man has "Evangelicals" written on him and replies, "Amen, Brother."

I grew up in the Evangelical Church--first the Pilgrim Holiness Church and then Mountain Methodist that was more like Baptist that what we think of today as Methodism.

I am embarrassed for Evangelicals everywhere that they, in spite of three wives and innumerable accusations of affairs and sexual abuse, continue to think Trump is 'their guy'.

No Evangelical Christian worth his or her Jesus could defend this man based on his moral (or immoral) behavior.

Though I am far from the Evangelicals in their theology, I have, until now, admired their belief and their stands, even when I did not agree with them.

But if a ultra-liberal, non-creedal Christian like me cannot condone the man's behavior, how can Conservative, Bible-believing Christians condone it?

I hope and pray to a God Evangelicals would not recognize as theirs, that these betrayed women will be the scratch that brings down Harry (Donald) and makes him dream of the mountain he did not deserve to climb before he is on the ash heap of history.

That's what I pray. I also pray Evangelicals (who I used to respect) will wake up and see the error of their ways.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I'll try, I really will

I'll try to stop writing about nothing but Bela. I really will but I don't know when....

Bern was out for a couple of hours this morning and I realized after an hour or so that I was totally alone in the house.

It's been since 2004 that when Bern is out I was totally alone--no black, hairy dog to keep me company.

Dog people know that one of the reasons to have a dog is the companionship.

But you don't truly realize that until your companion isn't there anymore.

13 plus years of habit is hard to break. Just today I heard our kitchen clock announce the hour (which it does by barking) and said to myself, "3 o'clock, time to feed the Puli". I almost stood up before I remembered that he is dead now.

Four or five times today I've felt an emptiness so profound that I almost sobbed. (OK, twice I DID sob).

I miss him so.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

how long it's been

If you wonder if I'll ever stop writing about Bela dog--24 hours dead now--the answer is I don't know.

But here's what reminds me of how long he was with us.

We got him before Josh and Cathy got married (their 13th anniversary is coming up).

Mimi and Tim weren't even together.

I was still working full time and would be for  over 5 more years. I've been retired nearly 8 years.

None of our grandchildren were born.

I was just turned 57 and Bern was 54.

George W. Bush was beginning getting ready to run for his second term.

9/ll was only 2 1/2 years before.

It was the year 'The Apprentice" debuted and no one on earth thought the host would run for President.

The Red Sox won the World Series.

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won the Oscar and The Sopranos won the emmy.

It's been a long time that we shared our home and our lives with that round, odd, black and hairy Puli.

How could I just 'move on'?

every thing I see....

Bela dog has been dead for just over 22 hours now and everything I see reminds me how much I already miss him.

The last two months I've sat in the living room because he would be sleeping there from 10-2:30 or so and from 4-7 p.m. Today I sat in the same chair and couldn't read.

I went out for a while and when I came home I truly expected him to come running to greet me, though he hasn't done that for at least two months.

The pillow he slept on is on our bed. Last night--the first night without him--I couldn't bring myself to touch that pillow because he wouldn't be there.

I gathered up all his food and treats and washed out the container of home-made food Bern or I always made for him. I put the food and treats and pills in a bag for the trash. I didn't want to see it and be reminded he wasn't here any more. Bern wants to give all that to a friend who has dogs so today I brought it back inside.

There is no place in this house that doesn't remind me of when he was there.

People who aren't 'dog people' will be thinking this: 'he was just a dog.'

Dog people will know better and understand. You don't live with any creature for 13 1/2 years and just 'forget' when they die.

Hard times and wet eyes for us today and for some todays to come.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Life is still and over for one I loved..."

I first wrote that line in an autobiographical short story for my creative writing class in college.

It was about a young man (me) I always called Richard David Lucas, standing by his grandmother's grave.

"Life is still and over for one I loved."

My professor thought it was 'trite'. But I believed it then and believe it now. At the time of death, there is a certain relief in knowing 'life is still and over' for one you loved.

Today that is true for me. Through all the pain and loss and grief, I know life is still and over for one I love.

BELA (2004-2018) Requiescant in pace dear Puli dog

He was the dog of our empty nest. Bern more than adored him. He was not a friendly  or 'good' dog--but we loved him deeply.

And now life is still and over for him.

Yesterday he started jumping up and running, instead of sleeping most of the day, as he has done for several months. He would run from one end of our upstairs and back and back again and again. He also had trouble eating, mistaking his bowl for his food. He didn't sleep at all last night and today Bern looked up 'dog dementia' on line and discovered this was a late development. About 3 p.m. she agreed with me that he shouldn't have to live like this. Our vet gave us a 7:30 p.m. appointment and put him down (what a weird euphemism!)

Bern couldn't stay in the room but I did, along with Dr. Matz and her big-boy assistant. She sedated him, so he slept for the first time in a day and a half. Then she gave the injection in his vein that made life still and over for him.

(When I came upstairs after coming back from the vet's, I glanced at my computer screen, which, when at rest, runs through my photos. The photo I saw was Bela on a bed with our daughter, Mimi, using him as a pillow. He loved Mimi perhaps most of all.)

We have shed more tears today and tonight than I ever remember Bern and I sharing.

We will miss him so. 13 and 1/2 years is a lot of living.

The pain for the death of a pet is deep and sharp--but without all the complications of mourning a human since dogs simply love you and you simply love them. No 'unfinished business' with a dog.

And there is this: life is still and over for one I loved profoundly.

There is some peace and healing in knowing that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Out of power

Missed church in Killingworth on Sunday because the power was out. Lots of people in the Northeast have lost power in the last couple of weeks.

We haven't in Cheshire in spite of the two hemlock trees down beside our back porch. Got to get a tree person soon to clear them out.

When we first came to Cheshire the power would go out in our house from a gentle breeze! They redesigned the grid (is that the word?) and we almost always keep power these days.

The last time we lost power was over five years ago when we drove to Baltimore in an unlikely October storm. I called my friend Fred Jenks and he went to our house and rescued our birds. We had birds then, up in a cage beside the radio, above Bela's bowl.

Luke the cat was still alive but it wasn't zero weather and the next door neighbors were feeding him and we knew he'd survive.

I don't think I ever adequately thanked Fred for saving Rainy and Ella from sure death.

When we came home power and heat was on again and I went to  Fred's to get the birds.

Thank you so, so much, Fred. We had their songs for a few more years because of you....

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Not so long now, Puli

Our dog, Bela, is 13 1/2 years old. Yesterday, for the first time, Bern told me "I don't think he has a sense of 'self' any more."

I've felt that for weeks.

Our 'empty nest' dog is near the end of his life. I wish he would die in his sleep but we will probably have to have him 'put down' (what an awful euphemism} soon.

We left him for a couple of hours yesterday, something we haven't done for several months--always one of us with him in the house--and I dropped Bern off and she found him fallen down in the kitchen and unable to get up for how long, we don't know. He ate dinner laying on the floor, her feeding him and I came home from the grocery to find her in tears.

I've sent a message on email to our vet--Dr. Matz--who is a wonderful woman who loves Bela. I want to talk about what comes next. He stayed upstairs today and will tomorrow though we have to pick up poo and soak up pee, because of the snow and how hard it is to get a 60 pound animal up and down stairs.

I wrote this next thing for Bern for Christmas, among other writings.

Don't tell he I shared it with you. I usually wait a few years to share anything I wrote exclusively for Bern. But Bela's situation makes me want to share it.

Anyone who has loved a pet will understand.


          He slumbers, feels a pain in his hip, rolls over, his head on the pillow that holds the faint scent of the Man and the Woman and wonders where they are. Then a brighter light comes on and there are noises down the way. ‘Breakfast’, he thinks, waking up a bit, ‘breakfast is coming….’
          The girl who smiles, the person he likes best in this place, brings him food.
          “Merry Christmas, Bela,” she says, sliding a bowl into his cage. “Christmas breakfast, big boy.”
          He pushes himself to all fours. It’s not easy sometimes, but he knows that breakfast will taste like home. The food he gets in this place is just like the food he gets at home. He eats it quickly, suddenly ravenous, and pretends he is home.
          There is faint music playing—Christmas carols, the girl told him. “We want you to know it’s Christmas.” The sound is soothing, but it’s not the sound he eats to at home. At home there is seldom music, but always voices are speaking—some concerned, some curious, some outraged, some joyful. Always the voices above his head as he eats at home.
          After each morsel is eaten, after he licks the bowl a few times, the Puli thinks. There is no thinking while he eats. Eating is a thing in itself: smelling, chewing, swallowing—no time for thoughts. Eating is All. While he eats there is nothing else.
          Still tasting the taste of home, he wonders why he comes to this place from time to time. It’s not unpleasant and the girl is so kind to him, but why does his Man—usually the Man alone, but sometimes the Woman too—bring him to this place. It takes no time getting used to this place, but the sounds of the other dogs give him shivers of fear from time to time. He doesn’t think those sounds always made him afraid. He seems to remember answering the barks with barks of his own—but not the last few times he’s been here.
          Why is he here? Why isn’t he at home? Where are the Man and Woman and why isn’t he with them?
          The Puli wanders to the back of his cage, sniffing and searching and finally he has a poop. That’s what the Man calls this activity. “Have a poop, Bela,” he says whenever they walk. And when he does, the Man, praises him.
          The Woman says it too, but sometimes she says, “Come on, Bela, kai-kai.”
          The Man and Woman have names for everything. That’s how he knows what ‘breakfast’ means when he’s here. Names for everything. It must be exhausting to remember all the words. Bela doesn’t know them all—mostly it’s just noise. But he has noticed there seem to be fewer words—less noise—these days. Even the voices above him while he eats at home seem fainter than they once were.
          “Office”, that’s a word he knows. It’s where he goes while the Man looks at the big box. The Puli has even figured out that that place is called ‘the cool room’ sometimes and the ‘office’ other times. And though it is the same place it is different too—the door has to be shut, the door to the long, narrow, dim place. When it’s ‘the cool room’ the door is shut and he can’t wander down the long, narrow place to look to see if the Woman is in the room with an even bigger box that never stays the same.
          He wishes he were in the office right now. Or even the room where the Man and Woman eat and watch the big bright box. Or anywhere, really, at home. Rather than here, where he lays and thinks.
          But thinking about ‘home’ makes him tired and a little sad, but more tired than sad. So, he falls asleep.
          In the midst of the distant music and the barks of the other dogs and the sounds of the humans doing what humans do in that place, the Puli sleeps.
          And he dreams. He dreams.
          He dreams of running through the snow. He dreams of running through the grass. He dreams of running—just that, running. Running.
          And in that dream, nothing hurts. His hips and legs move and move and move until the great relief of running becomes the whole dream.
          Just running.
          Then he dreams of the place the Man and Woman call ‘the big bed’.
          That’s were he spends his night and sometimes a lot of his day. He dreams of the softness there and the scents of the Man and Woman. He dreams of laying in that softness and hearing the water running in the shower. He dreams of the Woman, still moist, coming from the shower to hug him and kiss him. He dreams of the Man laying beside him looking at one of the blocks the man always has with him. He even dreams of leaping up onto the big bed and going over to gaze out the window at everything out there.
          He can’t leap on the bed anymore, even with the step he used to use. The Man or the Woman has to help him up. The Woman does it better, more smoothly, but one or the other has to help him now.
          But in his dreams, he leaps by himself, without the step, just up and up to the softness there, and the sweet smells. Up he goes, soaring, defying gravity.
          In reality, he’s never leapt up on the big bed that is now, the way he did the one that was before. He needed the step and used it until he needed help.
          But in his dream, he leaps, he soars, he lands with perfect grace.
          Soaring. Always in his dreams.
          He wakes from his soaring and sees one of the people has filled his bowl with fresh water. He tries to hoist himself up. It only takes two tries and then he is drinking, drinking, drinking.
          Like eating, drinking water takes all his attention, all his effort. It is not so much ‘him’ drinking than it is ‘drinking’ itself. The water goes down and down into his stomach until he backs away and belches softly.
          The people have gone now and the brighter light is off. Even the sound of what the girl called Christmas carols is gone. The cage on one side of him is empty but on the other side there is a large dog, sleeping against the fencing. The Puli goes over and sniffs carefully at the dog. It is as dark as he is but has short hair and a ridiculous long, skinny tail. The odor of the dog is not threatening though Bela had been suspicious of him when he first came to his cage. The dog had been trying to be friendly, snorting and wagging his tail. But the Puli ignored him. He has come to ignore other dogs most of the time. He seems to remember he didn’t always do that. It seems he used to study other dogs intently, trying to know if they were a threat to his Man or his Woman—whoever was walking with him. In the recesses of his memory is the memory of going after the other dogs, snarling and barking and biting…whatever was needed to keep his Man and Woman safe.
          But now he mostly just ignores other dogs, not even acknowledging their existence.
          He wanders around his cage, finally stopping to relief himself of some of the water he had lapped up before. Here in this place, though they take him for a walk each day, he relieves himself in his cage. The first time each time he came to this place, the first time he relieved water or pooped in his cage, he had held it as long as was possible. He has known for most of his life that it is ‘bad’ to do that inside. Only outside for such things. He knows this to the fiber of his being, but sometimes, recently, he has relieved himself even in his ‘home’. He has been ashamed when he did—but it was mostly impossible not to, those few times.
          The Puli lays down where he can keep an eye on the big dog sleeping in the next cage, but not too close. He is intent on watching the dog, but the rhythm of the big dog’s breath lulls him.
          And he sleeps himself.
          And dreams.
          He dreams of the time when he wasn’t the only creature in his home. He dreams of all the cats he has known—the ones with short hair and long hair. The big, annoying creature the Man and Woman called ‘Big Fatty’ and sometimes ‘fat fuck’, though the Puli doesn’t know what those things mean. He dreams of the two short-haired cats, the ones that went outside a lot, unlike ‘fat fuck’. They had names too, but in his dream, he doesn’t remember them. ‘Cat’-something was the bigger one. They all went away, even the sweet, gentle one called ‘Lukie’. The Puli never had much use for any of them but the sweet one was okay. And he never chased them, unlike the big dog the Man and Woman’s ‘son’ (whatever that means) started bringing with them when they came. He dreams of that dog and of the one before, the one he would run with in the yard. In his dream, he wonders where those two (‘Lara’ and ‘Su’-something they’re called) were when they weren’t at the Puli’s ‘home’.
          But most of all, he dreams of the little things he never really saw, that made sweet sounds above his head, near the voices that were always speaking. The Woman and the Man would talk to those creatures, so they must have been there. When they were there the voices above his head were often music instead. And the creatures would sing along. When little people came to his home, as they sometimes did, big people would hold them up and point to the voices and the sweet sounds. Everyone seemed to like whatever those creatures were, so they must have been there, unseen by the Puli, but heard.
          Where are all those creatures now, the Puli wondered. Now he is the only one with the Man and Woman. He likes not sharing attention with the others, but he does miss the sweet sounds he heard when he was eating.
          The big dog is awake. He is barking and one of the people in this place is taking him out of his cage. It must be ‘walk’ time, the Puli thinks. And sure enough, as the young girls takes the big dog by Bela’s cage, she says, “Your turn next, Bela.”
          In the time that is not now, the Puli could never walk enough. Even though he did not much like the thing around his neck, it was worth it just to be outside and walking, taking in all the smells and sounds of that place. It smelled different from the walks he took with the Man and Woman—different and exciting. “Walk! Walk!” he would think, longing to walk and walk. Longing for that.
          But that was in the time that is not now. Now he is reluctant to walk, always happy to head back. Part of it was his hips—the dull ache there—but another part was that like the dogs he was once so alert about, there were things on the walks that gave him pause. Not in this place, but on the walks with the Man and Woman. Huge things whiz by—and the enormous yellow thing that carries children—and people riding on two wheels. All of it, that was once merely innocent, now feels a bit threatening to him. He has learned how to turn back from the way the Man wants him to go in such a way that the man frets and worries about the thing around the Puli’s neck. The woman is not so easy to turn back, but the Puli eventually wears her down.
          Turning back is now more important than walking.
          The girl comes back and puts a thing around his neck and leads him past a dozen other cages into the outside. He sniffs and looks around for a while, but before they go all the way up the hill and away, he convinces her to turn back. And when she does, he is relieved and pulls to make her go back faster.
          “That wasn’t much of a walk,” the young girls says, as she puts him back in his cage and takes off the thing around his neck. “But Merry Christmas anyway….”
          Those words again. First the sweet girl and now the young girl have said them. And he thinks he hears the people who work in this place say the same words to each other. The boy, who the Puli doesn’t like as much as the sweet girl and the young girl, or even the man that’s not his Man, says back, “right, Merry-working-on-Christmas to you.”
          The Puli does not like the sound of the boy’s voice. It is the sound of his Man’s voice when the Puli doesn’t go down into the yard, or pulls too hard on the thing around his neck, or won’t come in the door from the back porch, or won’t come to be pushed up the long steps to upstairs. He hears that tone in the Woman’s voice from time to time—but not as much as the Man’s. Had he the words to give to that sound, he would call it ‘angry’ or more accurately ‘hurt’. But the Puli does not have words like the people do. He has only feelings, instincts—and those tell him about those words and the way they are spoken.
          ‘Walk’ thankfully over, the Puli drinks some water and flops down. He intends to watch and wait for dinner, but instead he falls asleep.
          He falls asleep and dreams.
          Christmas dreams for the Puli.
          Not often, but sometimes, his dreams turn hurtful, not that he knows that word, but he knows dreaming of the other places where the Man and Woman used to leave him were not good. He dreams vaguely of the place where they were afraid of him (though ‘afraid’ is not the word but his feeling) and didn’t bathe him or take him out. He dreams vaguely of being taken to another place with the dog named ‘Su-something’ and Su-something not staying but he did. He did not like that place either, not like this place where all but the boy are kind and good and feed him.
          Since dinner is near, he dreams of eating. The eating dream is not a dream about eating. The dream is Eating Itself. He dreams and dreams that, unable to stop dreaming.
          But then the clatter and talking and dinner comes to him. It tastes, as always, like ‘home’. He clears everything from his mind and, instead of him eating, he becomes Eating Itself.
          Sometimes the people in this place give him treats. More often than his Woman does, but not nearly as often as his Man does. He seems to remember his Woman chiding his Man for so many treats. ‘Chiding’ is not a word he would ever know or understand, but he feels the feeling when the Woman talks to the Man about treats.
          Too soon, the food is gone. He dozes for a while, without dreams, until he has to drag himself up and wander around the cage until he poops. The people in this place always praise him when they pick up his poop. He’s not sure why, since his poops are inside and therefore ‘bad’. But they do. And they take the poop away to someplace he does not know.
          No new dogs have come today, probably, the Puli imagines with clarity beyond his ken, that it is whatever Christmas is since ‘Merry Christmas’ has been the phrase of the day. He is glad there have been no changes. Changes in routine are things that ‘bother’ him, though he doesn’t know that word. He just knows what the people call ‘changes’ make him feel anxious. Habit and ruts are where he dwells most securely. Changes, like coming to this place, cause him distress.
          Two meals, a walk, a treat or two from the smiling girl—a good routine, a pleasing rut—are over. The bright lights are off. He and the other dogs live now in an indoor dusk. And they sleep.
          The Puli sleeps. And dreams.
          Again the running, the leaping on the big bed, the eating/eating/eating, the Woman and Man with him on the big bed, those bodies close to his, the scent of them, the warmth they have, racing up and down stairs, always full of energy, his mind alert to the threats around them, walking and walking and walking, never enough, and treats, sometimes his treats, sometimes food from the Woman’s plate, or the Man’s.
          Dreams like that fill up the rest of Christmas day and night. There is even a dream of a place that is nowhere and other dogs like him that he is with before a long journey in what the people call a ‘car’ to the place he’s always known as ‘home’. That dream is vague and distant and the Puli doesn’t quite know what to make of it, of the taste of milk, of the closeness of other creatures like him, of a place that he doesn’t really remember since his home has always, always been with the Man and Woman and the creatures who aren’t there anymore. But something in that short, vague, distant dream rouses him for a moment and he doesn’t know where he is. This isn’t there—the dream place—or ‘home’ or the big bed….In a while he remembers, he’s in this place and this is where he’s been and the dream he had of a place he doesn’t remember being fades away.
          He dreams some more. He dreams of the outside thing the Woman brought inside before he came to this place. He thinks the people called it a ‘Christmas tree’—there’s that word, Christmas, again. He dreams of the lights and little things they put on the tree. A tree inside his home. That makes no sense. But he somehow remembers other times when it happened. Most times, he remembers, the Woman brought two trees, but not this time. This time before they brought him to this place.
          He slept for hours without dreams. He just slept. He ‘was’ sleeping just as he ‘is’ eating and ‘is’ drinking water. And in his sleep he didn’t need to go up or down stairs, or get on the bed, or ‘do’ anything at all. He simply WAS sleep.
          But just before he woke on the day after Christmas—though he had been roused a time or two during the night, sleep not being as certain as it used to be—he had a dream even he would call ‘odd’ if he knew that word or what it meant.
          He dreamed he was in a place he’d never been before. It was a place so beautiful he almost forgot the place he’s always know—‘home’—and almost forgot the Man and Woman he shared that place with, first with other creatures and then, for a long time, with only the Man and Woman. In the dream the place he dreamed was enormous. And he ran and ran and ran and ran, like he’d never run before.
          And there was food that tasted like ‘home’ only better. And he wasn’t eating it, Eating was him. And water in a bowl, in a creek, in a lake, so cool and pure that he wasn’t drinking it, Drinking was him. And he ran, through snow and rain (which he used to hate but didn’t in his dream) and grass and weeds and trees and he ran and ran and ran and didn’t ever stop running. And it was a perfect Christmas Dream, though he still didn’t know what Christmas was.
          Morning came eventually. He dozed without dreams. The loving girl came to feed him what tasted like ‘home’. The other girl took him out and he actually ‘pooped’ or ‘kai-kai-ed’ depending on which of his humans you believed. Then he slept for a while, without dreams, until the girl he liked most came and started putting things he thought of as his into a big bag with dogs—not him—on it.
          “Your daddy’s here, Bela,” she said, “you’re going home”.
          It took him a moment to realize ‘daddy’ meant his Man.
          But immediately, he understood ‘home’.
          HOME—that he knew, that he longed for, that he loved.
          Always and for whatever ‘forever’ means.

One of my favorite sermons

It was about the feeling after 9/11 and the looming Iraq war. But it touches where we are today in the alternate reality of the current president. So, I thought I would share it.

FEBRUARY 9, 2003

          Today’s Gospel finds Jesus in Capernaum—going to the synagogue for prayers, visiting the home of Simon and Andrew, healing Simon’s mother-in-law and the townsfolk.
Capernaum was a village on the Sea of Galilee—a village of those who fished for a living. First century Capernaum has been largely excavated by archeologists. When I was in Capernaum several years ago, I sat amid the ruins of the synagogue St. Mark talks about and visited the site of what may have been Peter’s house. The synagogue was smaller than the chancel area of this church—nearly as long but only half as wide. And the foundation of what could have been Peter’s house was even smaller. The houses were built almost wall to wall and the streets of Capernaum were only about four feet wide. What struck me about the town was how small and close it must have felt—how tight and confining.
          The house was only one room. Peter’s mother-in-law must have been on a mattress of straw in one corner of the room. It would have only taken Jesus a step or two to cross to her and lift her up, healed of her fever. Jesus and the four disciples with him would have taken up much of the house while Peter’s mother-in-law prepared a meal for them. Living in that house would have been much like sleeping and eating and washing and talking in a space about the size of a modern-day kitchen—that tight, that crowded, that close.
          When we’re told that the whole city “was gathered around the door”, we need to picture people crowded into a space about the width of a narrow hallway, stretching away in both directions. If Jesus sat in the doorway of Peter’s house only a couple of people at a time could have stood in front of him. A crowded, tight space—but not too crowded for the broken to find wholeness, for the suffering to find relief, for those in pain to find relief. So Jesus touched and healed until darkness fell and all who sought him had found him.
          Its little wonder then that Jesus rose before dawn to go outside to a deserted place to get away from the confinement and narrowness of the day. He needed some space, some escape from how crowded and pressed upon he must have felt in Capernaum.
          I was having a conversation with a friend and parishioner this week and the conversation turned, as most conversations these days do, to what may or may not happen in Iraq.  I was saying that I was surprised and confused by how the coming war seemed so inevitable and that most people seemed almost to take it for granted.
          My friend told she’d heard someone say that since September 11, 2001, Americans had been living with “an intolerable vulnerability.” The American people, after that terrorist attack, had—for the first time in recent history—felt so “vulnerable”, so unsafe, so exposed, so frightened that it has seemed unbearable—“intolerable” to us. An intolerable vulnerability….
          Since September 11, the US government has been granted wide latitude by the public for anything that claims it will reduce this “intolerable vulnerability” and make us feel somehow safer. With almost no opposition either within or outside the government, there has been serious, perhaps irreparable, erosion of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees.  All the government has needed to convince us to give away precious rights is to appeal to our fears, our vulnerability. We are promised that arrests without sufficient evidence, illegal searches and imprisonment without the due process are justified because we will be safe from terrorists. We are being “closed in” by our fears and vulnerability.
          Jesus escaped to the open places outside Capernaum while it was still dark. He went away from the crowds and the tightness and the confinement and close quarters so he could pray. But when his disciples came searching for him and found him, he returned to the people, to the crowds to proclaim his message—the message he was sent to bring.
          The Collect for today reminds us of Christ’s message. Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life you have made known to us in…Jesus Christ….
       Jesus’ message is the same today as it was in Capernaum. We are FREE from Sin and given the LIBERTY of Abundant Life.
          Freedom and Liberty are the enemies of fear and anxiety and that intolerable vulnerability. Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear. Abundant Life is life lived with the courage and safety only God can give.
          Personally, I question the morality of the coming war. I oppose it strongly. It is, in my mind at least, a war that will be waged, not out of a longing for justice and righteousness, but out of our intolerable vulnerability.
However, I also believe most of those who support military action in Iraq are convinced of the rightness of their point of view. Saddam Hussein IS a tyrant and a monster to his own people. But there is much that can be done to oppose and weaken him short of unleashing our nation’s military might. I believe we need to act out of courage rather than fear.
          We will be no safer after much blood has been spilled and Iraq is defeated. The damage that this coming war will wreck will inflame and embolden those who wish us harm.
          As a Christian, I feel I need to cling to “the liberty of that abundant life” Christ makes known.
          Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear and danger. We cannot ever be safe. But all that is most precious and most real cannot be taken from us by violence and terror.
          In fact, I think there is freedom and liberty found in facing our feelings of vulnerability.  Vulnerability teaches us humility. Vulnerability opens us to possibilities beyond returning violence for violence. Vulnerability can give us access to transformation, to newness, to hope. Living an abundant life takes much more courage than dealing death.
          Perhaps the most troubling part of our current quandary is how inevitable the coming war seems. Even people who oppose military action in Iraq seem defeated. “It’s too late to do anything,” a friend told me about the coming war. “Too much is in motion,” he continued, “it’s simply too late….”
          The vulnerable people of Capernaum—those sick and weak and possessed of Fear—sought out Jesus. Their brokenness was intolerable to them, so they sought out Jesus. And Jesus offered them freedom from sin and fear—he offered them abundant life.
          He offers us no less.
Christ offers us that abundant life which empowers us to live courageously in spite of fear and danger, to live with hope and restraint and faith in a time of intolerable vulnerability. Christ offers us freedom and liberty, and it is never too late to seek him.
          It is never too late to seek peace—though our country’s leaders seem committed to a fight to give us the illusion of safety at the expense of our national honor and integrity. It is never too late to bring the Light of Christ to this fearful, darkling world.
          It is never too late to seek Christ and to seek peace….It is never too late….

The Rev. Dr. Jim Bradley
St. John’s on the Green
Waterbury, CT 06702

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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.