The Heart Outside Your Body

At the grocery store
I saw a baby in the seat
of a cart and he smiled at me
with such delight
that he reminded me of my own baby
and I was instantly transported
back to those days
such a long time ago

when I was his favorite person in the world
and he would raise his little arms
with fingers pointing up
and a winning smile
knowing that I would lift him high
and swing him through the air
before settling him on my hip
and taking him to the next big thing.

He too would sit in the cart
and smile at people who walked by
always so friendly
and slightly mischievous

no words yet
but you always knew
just what he meant.

Now he is a grown man
overtopping me by a foot
with a man’s beard and muscles
and his expression is often hard to read.

He is one of the good ones
and as much as I would like
to claim credit for that
I must admit
he was born that way.

Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is
“forever to have your heart
go walking outside your body.”

Even long after they are grown
This is true.
I miss my sweet baby boy
but I love the man he has become
and I wish his heart didn’t walk
quite so far away
so much of the time

because even though
I am no longer his favorite person
he and his sister
(also grown)
are still mine.

 

 

 

Our Ordinary Natures

That there is such a being as a porcupine.

That there are creatures like iguanas
and sea jellies and parrotfish
and flamingos and ibises
and newts and toads and naked mole rats.

That there are creatures so beautiful
they make us weep
and creatures so ugly
they make us laugh.

That a certain bird in the tropical jungle
collects only shiny blue things
with which to impress
prospective mates.

That when one human toddler
sees another drop its binky
and begin to cry
the first comes over
and picks up the binky
and offers comfort.

I want to sing Gloria! in every moment
because the world is so full of wonders
but really
this is just the way things are
on the most ordinary day.

It takes effort to cause harm.
Let’s not make so much effort.
Let’s just fall back on our ordinary natures
and offer love when someone is sad.

Let’s just be amazed
and grateful
and joyful.

Thank You


Yes yes we know all about the news but have you seen the way the tall grass is spangled with fallen cherry blossoms? And how the new oak leaves glow translucent pale green against the achingly blue sky? The Ceonothus is exploding with blooms that verily define the color purple, so vivid are they against the glossy dark green leaves, and fat furry bumblebees striped in yellow and black hover busily among the tiny pistils and stamens. Redbuds stretch out limbs clothed in glorious deep pink, wildflowers bloom on hillsides and creek banks, and newts find each other in the cold clear waters. Birds sing Gloria! in the morning and frogs sing of love at night.

Tomorrow we will take up our work again. Today all we are doing is singing praise songs. Today all we are doing is saying Thank You.

Sacrifice and Miracle

In Butte Montana
there is an open pit copper mine
that filled in with water
after it was closed.

It is a vast lake now
with water red and green
and gray and black
containing sulfuric acid
and heavy metals:
deadly poisons all.

For decades
nothing could live in the water, and
nothing could live on the shore.

Every year flocks of snow geese
try to land on the lake
and every year humans
go out and make noise
to try to scare them away.

One year despite the noise
several hundred landed there
and drank the water
and the next day
all the birds were dead.

Autopsies showed
they had been poisoned
by the water.

Fifteen years later
scientists found a sticky black goo—
a yeast—
growing in the water
absorbing the toxic metals.

A miracle!  A breakthrough!
An organism that can eat toxic metals!

It took some time to identify it
but eventually the scientists realized
that it had been seen once before:

in the digestive systems
of the geese
that had died
when they landed
on the lake.

(h/t to Rev. Kevin Tarsa, who shared this story from Radiolab one Easter morning.)

Her Wild, Wild Beauty

For Rebecca

(Beloveds: You have seen this before, but it is my favorite spring poem, and I wanted to share it again.)

 

I met God again at the river today.

Not in one of Her more glamorous guises,
only as an alder tree.

Only a plain simple alder tree
crouching by the water—you know how they do—
reaching out to dip its lower branches in
with new spring leaves fully unfurled.

Not even a very big alder tree
just a simple small one,
and I contemplated the simplicity of God:
the way God is just there
all the time
in the background
making oxygen
so we can breathe.

And then four swallows swooped in
and rose up
and swooped and dived
and rose up again
in ecstatic aerial ballet

And then a pair of mergansers flew
wings pumping fast and hard
across my line of sight

And then a redbud tree
extravagantly decorated in deep pink blossom
waved its branches a little
and the bright orange poppies
demurely nodded their heads

And I could no longer contemplate
the simplicity of God
but only Her wild, wild beauty.

 

What The World Needs

Spirit of Life,
You who urge the spring salmon upstream
and the geese back to their nesting grounds:

There is so much pain in our world.

It is tempting to shut our eyes
and shut our hearts
just so we can survive.

But what the world needs
is for us to keep them open.

Help us keep our eyes open
to the suffering we see.

Grant us the strength
not to turn away,
but to move toward
those beings and places
where our love is most needed.

Help us open our hearts.

Help us know
that it is when we are most open
to your movement through us
into our beautiful and hurting world
that we will feel the most joy.

Help us open our hearts to joy.

Blessed be.

 

Sunlight After Long Rain

For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Truth-Teller and Bringer of Light

Spirit of Life, Source of all Love:

In this place the sun has come out
after months of rain
and the trees are showing off their finest jewels:
droplets sparkling in rainbow colors.

Steam rises from the ground
and from the trunks of the giant cedars
and the forest looks like Life begun anew
Creation just set in motion.

There is nothing in this world
like the feeling of sunlight on our faces
just when we thought it would never come
and darkness and gloom
would prevail forever.

Yet the sunlight does always return.

There are parts of our lives
in which we have little power
and this is good
for it keeps us humble.
We cannot make the sun come and go
on our preferred schedule.

But there are other parts
where we do have power
and if we want the sun to come out
we have to work for it.

Help us know the difference
and do the work.

Help us shine the bright light of truth
through the obscuring clouds of lies
so we can bask in its warmth.

Help us set Creation in motion anew.

Blessed be.  Amen.

When Humans Are Just Too Awful For Words

It is not that I don’t think about evil—
I do.  Often.

It is more that I will not let it have the last word.

Horrible things happen
in every part of this world
every day, and
if I allowed myself to feel all the pain there is
I would be paralyzed
and that would do no one
any good
at all.

So I choose a different way.

I know I cannot solve everything—
save the children from sexual slavery
get clean water to every person
remove all the plastic from the oceans
and somehow get rid of this strutting emperor
who dismisses reports of his nakedness
as fake news
while inciting acts so heinous
that we will be ashamed for generations to come—
and it is not that I do not feel angry.

It is more that
I prefer to think about the way,
every spring, even in dry years,
the bright poppies bloom
on the green hills
under the blue sky,
and the shore birds fly up
in vast murmurations,
flashing first white and then gray
and then silver
in the shafts of sunlight
that pierce the soft spring clouds.

It is more that
I prefer to think about the way
the children are rising up in the streets
to remind their elders of their proper work
which is not to sit and wring our hands
and feel helpless,
but to act
and to create
new ways of doing everything.

Life is more powerful than evil
and we are part of it
and must act on our own behalf.

“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless,”
said Dorothy Day,
“There is too much work to do.”

Think of how much work it is
and how hard
for a baby bird to hatch from an egg;

Think of how much work it is
and how hard
for a tree to grow through a boulder;

And yet they do it all the time.

If the flowers can bloom
and the children can rise up

If the birds can hatch and then they can fly
and if trees can grow through stone

then, certainly—
certainly!—
we have the strength
to overcome evil.
To outgrow it,
to create something different
and more interesting.

Let us hatch
and let us fly
and let us grow
and let us bloom
and together let us
create something beautiful
and new.

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

I was longing for spring
but it was not forthcoming
so I went to sit by the river
and found that, as always,
the winter storms
have changed it.  The bank
on the other side is gone
and the river has a new course.
The granite boulders are sparkling clean.

When last I was there
at the end of fall
the air was still filled with smoke
and there was very little water.

The boulders were slippery and orange
and stank of algae
that had grown and died
and the rocks on the bottom
were covered with mucky green.

Drought and fire in the autumn
were followed by winter storms and flood
and now we may be close to the other side,
to the time when flowering trees bloom
and the poppies raise their orange heads
on the bright green hillsides—
but not quite yet.

For now, what we have are
granite boulders scoured clean
by powerful water that rose high
and scrubbed out all the muck.

For now, what we have
is a river whose course was changed
by powerful water that rose high
and washed away resistance.

O let us be that storm that comes

Let us be that water
that rises high

Let us be that water
that has such power

that power
that power
that power

Let us be that power
that scrubs away filth
and washes away resistance
and leaves behind only clean stones

only clean stones

and the knowledge
that flowers
will be blooming soon.

When Someone We Love Is Seriously Ill

Spirit of Life,
Great Immensity of Love
in which we live and move and have our being:

When someone we love is seriously ill,
sometimes we feel like we have to suffer
as much as possible
in order to make them well,
and it would be wrong
to laugh.

Other times we feel we must always stay positive
in order for the treatment to work.

Sometimes we feel rage—
that this should happen!
to this beloved person!

Other times we feel angry
at the very person who is sick.
Why didn’t they take better care?!

Sometimes we feel terrified,
other times we feel numb,
and sometimes we worry
that everything we feel is wrong.

Help us know that it is all right
to feel whatever we feel.

ALL the feelings are allowed—
grief, rage, fear, joy, contentment, numbness—
ALL the feelings are allowed.

Help us express our feelings,
whatever they are,
and release them unto You.

Help us know
that Your love is deep enough
and wide enough
to hold them all,
as the ocean can hold
all rivers.

When we are emptied out,
fill us with your loving Presence,
so we ourselves can be present
to those who need us.

In Your many names, we pray.

Amen.  Blessed be.