Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Alas and alack...

So, I went to my Tuesday morning group primed to talk about Game of Thrones and none of the people there had ever watched it!

I was shocked--I thought the only thing more people were talking about than what an despicable idiot our President is, would be Game of Thrones. I talk to people in the grocery store and filling up our cars with gas about the show. But none of these people I care deeply about have ever watched it!

I took a deep breath and decided, instead, to talk about how all the Yankee stars are on the injured reserve list and they are still only 2 games out of first.

Then I checked their faces and realized that people who didn't watch GofT wouldn't follow baseball either.

It was great because I usually think I'm out of the 'mainstream', but maybe not as far as I thought....

"Go Yankees!!!!"

"Go Dragons!!!!"

Sunday, April 28, 2019

OK, here's the Truth

Whether or not you read the books and whether or not you've only 'been aware' of The Game of Thrones TV series or fanatics about it like Bern and I. you should go to HBO on demand, if you have it, and watch Sunday night's episode.

It is beyond words.

And I may watch it again to count the 'words' spoken in over an hour.

It was pure battle from beginning to end.

All the blood and death and terror of all that came before was overwhelmed by this episode.

I won't even begin to try to write about it.

It is beyond words.

It must be experienced to comprehend.

Please check it out and let me know what you thought.

It was all the wars ever fought condensed into just over an hour.

Amazing. Terrifying. Astonishing.

Beyond words.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A poem I've never shared

The Poem I Can’t Write

For days now I’ve been trying
to write a poem that just won’t come.
It’s for our anniversary and about my love,
so it should flow out without any effort,
since I love you so very much.

But the poem is hiding from me,
peeking at me from around the corner,
avoiding me at all cost, it seems.
Page after page I throw away
(or, more accurately, erase from my computer).

Forty-six years of marriage (and years before that)
of loving you—the words should pour out,
full of passion and wonder and amazement.

This time I realized something,
my love for you isn’t something ‘out there’,
that I can examine, reflect on, put into words.
That love is in those letters in the attic.
That love has altered, changed, become incarnate.

The love I feel for you is, quite simply, me.
I am my love for you. It is my very ‘being’
That cannot be captured and enclosed in words.
That is ‘who I am’. So, I am your poem.
This poem is ‘me’, my very being, the “I” I call myself.
I am yours. Your anniversary poem….

September 5, 2016

A poem not many read from 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mimi's home

Which is always good. She is my love. I love Josh too, terribly much, but Mimi just slips into our lives and barely makes a wave and is so welcomed.

I probably did before, but I'll share again, a poem I wrote about her on her birthday when she was in Japan with the American Ballet Theater.

                          PHOTOS OF MIMI
The house is full of pictures of her.
In some of them, she is a tiny, chubby baby.
In others, she is a little girl possessed.
In one she gains speed, running
down a hill in front of my father's house,
her tongue out, her blonde hair flying,
her small arms churning
like the wind.
In another, taken the same day,
she is solemn, not looking at the camera,
considering something out of the frame,
unsmiling, gazing at the future, perhaps.
She grows through the pictures—though they are random
on the walls and shelves, so she doesn't grow evenly.
A beautiful, awkward teen, smiling in spite of braces,
her jeans decorated in ink, a hole at the knees,
her shoes half-tied, embarrassed, I think, by the camera.
There is a sagging Jack-O-Lantern at her side,
smiling a smile as crooked as her own.
A whole group pictures when she was finishing
high school—a lovely, wistful, long-haired girl
exploding gracefully into life and what comes next.
I love the photo from her college graduation,
the four of us, this little family, her brother posing,
Mimi—short-hair and sun-glasses—smiling.
Just the four of us, a tiny clan, so different and distinct,
frozen in time on a mountain in Vermont, timeless, eternal.
I walked around the house today, looking for her visage--
bride's maid at Josh's wedding, clowning in a hotel doorway,
holding one niece or another with her boyfriend
(she natural, laughing, Morgan content on her lap,
Tim is a bit anxious and Emma is pulling away from him),
sitting on our back deck at an age I can't remember
when her hair was a color not found in nature,
and she is, as always glancing away from the camera,
playing on the beach as a toddler, sandy, nude,
hands in the sand, staring backward through her legs
(a photo a camera shy person would hate later on!)
I made my circuit, stopping before each photograph,
amazed at the memories that leaped out of the frames
and enthralled me.
Amazed more that such a beautiful child and woman
could have lived with me so long
and left imprints on my heart so deep.
She is half-a-world away.
In a land I can only faintly imagine.
I will not talk with her today—her nativity day.
I cannot even remember, as I gaze at photos,
if it is today or tomorrow in Japan.
Or yesterday.
Then there is the photo I love most.
It is pinned to the cork board beside my desk,
where I sit and write.
She is framed in a glass doorway. Her hair is long.
I can't remember how old she way—in college, perhaps--
and beyond the door you see, fully lit, dunes of Nantucket.
Mimi is in shadow, almost a silhouette cut from dark paper,
in full profile. Only the back of her hair is in sunlight,
shining, translucent, moving in the wind.
I love that picture because it is Mimi stepping through the
Door of Life, moving away from the infant shots,
the little girl, the teenaged child,
moving into life beyond me...half a world away.
All grown and still, all new....
jgb/July 21, 2008

Thursday, April 25, 2019


(I've seldom posted something three times, but last night a dear, wondrous friend died and I've been pondering over finitude today. So here's something you might have read before.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Finitude, again

I was sitting on our back porch pondering how I'm 70 years old and have no idea how this happened. Then I remembered a post about Finitude that nobody much read. Thought I'd share it again.And, about granddaughters, I have another one, only 8 months old. If I live to be 80, she'll still be a pre-teen....just an addendum to this more than 8 year ago blog post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


For some reason I have been talking with people lately about 'what happens when you die."

Actually, I have no idea--not any, not one--about what happens when we die.

Since I'm a priest, I'm around death a lot and I'm not much help. People seem to assume I know what this whole 'hereafter' thing is all about. Imagine their surprise!

(A joke from years ago: A boy says to his date, "do you believe in the 'hereafter'?
Being a Christian girl she says, "of course I do." Then he says, "well, let's have sex." She is horrified. "Why would you ask that?" she says. He replies, "that's what I'm 'here after'.")

"Is Daddy/Mommy/Brother/Sister/Child/Husband/Wife...on and on...in a better place?" I've been asked more than once by the death bed after giving last rites and watching the person slip away through that unmarked door.

First I smile sadly. Usually that is enough. The one left behind bursts into tears and I hold them. But some are tougher--"Well?" they say. And I say, "I have no idea."

Once someone said to me, "Why are you a priest if you don't have some belief about the after-life?"

I resisted my first impulse to say, "I'm not a priest for the 'after-life', I'm a priest for the living and the dying." Instead I said, meaning it with all my being, "I simply leave 'what happens next' to God."

That's what I do. Oh, I do believe there is something after death--so long as you are willing to acknowledge that the 'something' might be 'nothing'. I would think no less of God if when life ends, it simply ends. Dead as a doornail--whatever a door-nail is.

As I grow older--I'm over 60 now (I never imagined being this old!)--I do ponder death more than when I was 22 or 37 or even 53. Even if I live to be 80 some, that's only 20 or so more Springs, more Christmases, more baseball seasons. My granddaughters will be in their 20's-when I shuffle off this mortal coil, if I'm lucky enough to be 80-something, and my children will be 50 or so, but there will be, as the song says, "a lotta things happening" after I'm dead and gone.

One thing I know, I hope there is an option to the streets of gold and angel wings for me. In fact, since I know (because I'm theologically educated) that noone ever suggested the dead become angels--angels are a whole other species of beings--I'm just worried about those streets of gold. Doesn't sound like good urban planning to me.

I wrote a poem about finitude a few years ago. I thought I'd share it here.

The Difficulty with Finitude

I try, from time to time,
usually late at night or after one too many glasses of wine,
to consider my mortality.

(I've been led to believe
that such consideration is valuable
in a spiritual way.
God knows where I got that....
Well, of course God knows,
I'm just not sure.)

But try as I might, I'm not adroit at such thoughts.
It seems to me that I have always been alive.
I don't remember not being alive.
I have no personal recollections
of when most of North America was covered with ice
or of the Bronze Age
or the French Revolution
or the Black Sox scandal.
But I do know about all that through things I've read
and musicals I've seen
and the History Channel.

I know intellectually that I've not always been alive,
but I don't know it, as they say, 'in my gut'.
(What a strange phrase that is
since I am sure my 'gut'
is a totally dark part of my body
awash with digestive fluids
and whatever remains of the chicken and peas
I had for dinner and strange compounds
moving inexorably--I hope--through my large
and small intestines.)

My problem is I have no emotional connection to finitude.
All I know and feel is tangled up with being alive.
Dwelling on the certainty of my own death
is beyond my ken, outside my imagination,
much like trying to imagine
the vast expanse of space
when I live in Connecticut.

So, whenever someone suggests that
I consider my mortality,
I screw up my face and breathe deeply
pretending I am imagining the world
without me alive in it.

What I'm actually doing is remembering
things I seldom remember--
my father's smell, an old lover's face,
the feel of sand beneath my feet,
the taste of watermelon,
the sound of thunder rolling toward me
from miles away.

Perhaps when I come to die
(perish the thought!)
there will be a moment, an instant,
some flash of knowledge
or a stunning realization:
"Ah", I will say to myself,
just before oblivian sets in,
"this is finitude...."


Cheshire is loud

People tend to think of Cheshire, where we live, as a peaceful, little, suburban town.

But Cheshire is loud, at least around here.

We live three lots from Rt. 10, the main road through Cheshire, between New Haven and I 691 which will take you to I 91 N and Hartford. So we get lots of sirens on Rt. 10. One was going by as I was typing the second sentence above.

But that's not the worse thing. The worse thing is lawns and drive ways.

Lawns and driveways are important on Cornwall Ave. So we have leaf blowers in the fall and spring, snow blowers in the winter and grass cutting blowers and lawn mowers in the late spring and summer.

All of which are loud.

I was out on the deck in April's 60 degree weather today and a neighbor across the street was having their lawn mowed and the grass cuttings blown away by a lawn care company. We don't have a 'lawn care company' except for Bern and her push mower.

It was so loud my tinnitus went silent and then I noticed the two young men doing it weren't wearing ear protectors. Later on they'll be lucky to hear tinnitus, must less anything else!

I like quiet, so all this motorized noise bothers me.

I'd rather hear the crickets of my tinnitus.

That's how loud it gets around here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

memories are made of this

Since I have a degree from Harvard (M.T.S. 1971) I receive the University's magazine every two months.

The March/April magazine had a cover story about 1969 (my first semester there) and the student strikes over the Vietnam war.

In my two years in Cambridge, we completed only one of four semesters because of strikes that shut down the university. Those were, in my memory, a boy from the mountains of West Virginia, amazing!

Police in riot gear. Students in tee shirts with a red hand on the back, curled into a fist, and the black letters "STRIKE".

Harvard Square was like a variety show. Hippies, Hari Kristna  folks,  people in red and black robes acting out roles of the GOOD and the EVIL, teens looking for pot, homeless folks, students from the college, sight-seers and tourists, and the little dog belonging to the newspaper guy with paralyzed back legs tied on a skateboard.

Weird times, indeed.

I was at the Divinity School as my way of getting out of the draft. I won a Rockefeller "Trial year in Seminary" scholarship which, since I was in Divinity School and the Bishop of West Virginia made me a 'candidate for holy orders', gave me the last remaining draft deferment in 1969. They were drafting Law students, medical students and PH.D. students.

I've been reading the stuff undergrads at the time have written.

It was weird. Very weird.

Fond memories.

I like weird.

didn't write it down

(I didn't write down my Easter sermon this year. Talked mostly about Mary Magdalena but have waiting too long to try to remember what I said. So, here's an Easter sermon from 2007. OK?)


          We all know the story, right? We all came here today to hear it again.
          It’s not complicated, as stories go, There’s not a lot of sub-plot or irony or hidden meaning.
          Some women come to a graveyard and discover an empty tomb and a Being of Light tells them the One they came seeking, to anoint, as was the practice in their culture, is not dead but alive. And the women go, astonished and fearful, to tell the others in their community.
          “Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”
          The end. That’s about it.
          So we can all go home and eat ham and deviled eggs and hot cross buns and lots of chocolate and be satisfied that Easter has come and gone one more time.
          The “story” is about Jesus—isn’t it? He died and God made him alive again. The preacher can stop there. Case closed. Time for summer and getting ready for Christmas….

          Unless, of course, the story is about US as well as Jesus—that would be another matter and require a little more talking.
          What if…just, ‘what if’, for the sake of argument, the story is about US as well as Jesus?
          What if…just to make my sermon a little longer, we all have a role—several roles—to play in the whole Drama?
          It starts with that rag-tag army that followed Jesus during his life—those folks ‘hoping for something better’, ‘imagining that life really meant something’, putting their bet on a dark horse itinerant preacher from Nazareth, leaning into his love?
          I don’t know about you, but I’ve often had that feeling welling up inside my heart—that feeling that there must be ‘something’…something bigger and more lovely and greater than the day-to-day grind of life. I’ve often longed for something grand and precious and holy. So I could have been one of those who followed him around, hanging on his words, marveling at his power and miracles, thinking this might just be the one to put my money on…Love.
          And in the last week of his life, they all left him, disappointed and estranged, feeling like they’d been conned, misguided, wrong.
          And I’ve felt that—I don’t know about you—but I’ve felt like I put my money on the wrong horse, that I’d been misguided and deceived, and all my hope has been dashed on the cruel realities of life, that Love conquers nothing.
          Then there is Peter, who denied him after promising to leave him never. When my hopes have been thwarted, I’ve denied having them at all—my momma didn’t raise any fools.
          And there is Pilate—who knew what was right but didn’t do ‘the right thing’ because of pressures from others. How often have I kept silent when my voice was called for? How often have I ‘held back’ when courage was needed? How often have I accepted a lie because I wasn’t brave enough to stand for the truth?
          Judas too—what if the story isn’t about Judas at all, but about ME, perhaps even YOU? I know I have ‘betrayed’ others for much less than 30 pieces of silver—and I have ‘betrayed’ myself over and again through my disappointments and fears and self-serving motives.

          But I am like the women—like Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James—as well. I have found it within myself to be ‘faithful’, to be ‘loyal’, to be ‘true’. I have gone to the graveyard out of love, in spite of my fears, because it was the right thing to do. I have carried the spices with me to anoint the deaths of my life—and you have too.
          And we have been surprised by Wonder in our lives—we have found Love and Life in Dead Places, we have met Being of Light, we have encountered Angels.
          Likewise, I have been like the Apostles, hiding behind locked doors, fearful and mournful, even as the power of Love came to me. And I have had to struggle with whether or not to ‘give up my life’ in order to ‘find Life in Abundance….’  I know that feeling and I bet you do to.
          I bet you know—if you are centered enough and open enough—I bet you know that part of you that is like the crowds—engaged and then disappointed—like Peter…denying…like Judas…betraying…like Pilate, not speaking out for truth…like the women, confounded by Joy…like the disciples, hidden but called out by Love to dance and sing and rejoice.
          So, Jesus is Risen and that can be enough for us this day.
          Or, we can find in this celebration, in this liturgy, in this story…the possibility of our own WHOLENESS, our own TRANSFORMATION, our own RESURRECTION to a life that welcomes all the ‘parts’ of each one of us—that welcomes each of us, just as we are, to something new and beautiful and unexpected and loving. Easter calls us from our tombs of longing and doubt and anxiety and cowardice and betrayal and denial into a ‘new life’ of WHOLENESS AND HOPE AND LOVE.
          My prayer for me and for you is this: that today we may make our song this and only this—ALLELUIA, WE ARE RISEN! WE ARE RISEN, INDEED! ALLELUIA!
          God’s Love can be the music of our song….

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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.