In the Face of Such Beauty

Spirit of Life, mysterious energy that enlivens all beings:

Now is the time when rainclouds swathe the hillsides and then race away on cold winds.
Mossy trees backlit by bright sun are limned in green fire,
and water droplets on twigs shine like silver pearls.

The air is so fresh and clean that we cannot get enough of its sweetness.
We breathe in more deeply and more often
than is strictly necessary.

It seems impossible in the face of such beauty
that the drums of war should beat…
and yet they do.

That children should be in any danger at all…
and yet they are.

That so much life should be on the brink of collapse…
and yet it is.

In times like these, what can we do?  How can we live?

Help us open our hearts.

Help us open our hearts so wide and so deep
that when we look upon the suffering and danger all around us
we feel no fear, but only love and compassion.

Only love and compassion
which we then give away
the way you give us rain and sunlight and fresh sweet air—
freely, in abundance, with no hesitation and no holding back.

Help us open our hearts to love.

Blessed be.

Let Me Be Saved By Small Things

Spirit of Life, Radiant Mystery,
Source of all that is good and holy:
I confess to a certain weariness of spirit.

Just as we were beginning to recover
from the other disasters,
another shooting.

And since the rains have still not come
the power will be turned off

And people who should love one another
and speak with kindness
or at least civility
are shouting in rage
and flouncing away–
forever!–they say
from their circles of love and support.

What is to become of us?

I long to pray to an omnipotent god
who would fix all this
if we just said the right words

But since that is not an option

I take myself
to the running waters
and listen to their song.

I call my dear friend
and listen to their beautiful voice.

And I sit with a four-year-old child
and read our favorite story.

Salvation is not something grand
heralded with trumpets;

It is instead effected by
a hundred small things:

The good dinner on a beautiful table,
a small child bouncing on your belly,
a dog chewing a bone against your leg.

The way water slides over smooth stone
over and over again but
never exactly
the same way twice.

The way the ravens converse
as they fly over the neighborhood
talking to each other
at the end of the day.

The way moss springs to life
the moment
it is touched
by rain.

Spirit of Life,
let me be saved by these small things.

Blessed be.






What is good and real and beautiful

A cellist in Sarajevo
once played for 22 days in a row
to honor 22 people who were killed by a mortar
as they waited in line for bread.

When asked “How can you play music
when bombs are being dropped all around?”

He replied, “No, the question is,
how can people drop bombs
when there is such beautiful music?”

Today we paddled our kayaks
across a lake
and into a creek
between canyon walls lush with
willow, alder, cottonwood,
maple, fir, pine,
madrone, oak, cedar
Green upon green upon green
in so many different hues

Bald Eagle greeted us
by swooping over our heads
and hundreds of dragonflies
darted above the water.
Little fish swam just below
and the loudest sound
was the fluting call
of a hermit thrush.

This time on quiet water
among green trees and with
our other-than-human relatives
is necessary

Because for some unfathomable reason
people do drop bombs
and hurt children
and pretend there is no climate change

and we need to remind ourselves of
what is good and real and beautiful.

There is music.
There is the fragrance of the pines
on a warm summer day.
There is the kiss of our beloved.
There is the laughter of a happy child
as she bounces on our lap
and sings her little song.
There is the fluting call
of the hermit thrush.

If we can keep these in our hearts
we will be strong enough
to go into the belly of the beast
and put out its fire
with the sweet, sweet waters
of love.




Memorial Day Prayer

Spirit of Life,
Source and Sustainer of All:

Now is the growing time.
Life burgeons in a riot of color everywhere we look.

Help us know you
as that force that arranges stardust
into patterns and shapes more astounding
than anything we could ever dream:
green maple leaves, purple lilacs, singing wrens,
clear waters, laughing babies of every color.

Help us remember how holy is your work,
how precious each life.

Help us remember:
it is on behalf of these lives
that we must resist hatred and greed and cruelty
for we are all interconnected
in one vast and living whole.

May we know that
it is possible to resist without violence.

And at the same time,
may we be thankful
that when violence and cruelty do come,
there are those who are willing
to give their lives
to try and stop it.

May we never take their sacrifices lightly.
May we always remember them.

Blessed be.

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.


If That Is Not Love

You say you have not known love…
but have you not seen the heron
landing on her stilt legs in the clear water
and did she not let you come closer than last time
before lifting her great wings and flying away?

What of the double rainbow you saw
over the ocean,
or the time the two young otters peered out at you
from underneath a rock,
making contact
on purpose?

Or the time you stood on the ground
with the brilliant sun setting on one side
and the radiant moon rising on the other
and you felt the turning of the earth?

And what of that bright orange
that you peeled to find
sections as if made for your hands
and each full of sweet tart juice
that ran everywhere
when you put it in your mouth?

You were made for this world
and it for you
and that is why, when you see
how the dead brown moss
on boulders and trees
springs to verdant life
at the slightest touch of rain,
you bend down and rub your cheek
ever so gently
across the bright green softness.

If that is not love,
I do not know what is.

The Organizing Technique of Snow

One snowflake, when it falls,
is insubstantial.  It melts
the moment it touches the ground.

It is beautiful as it falls,
a unique structure
of crystalline water
so perfect that when we
magnify it to see
we nearly swoon
from sheer amazement.

And yet, by itself,
a snowflake melts
the moment it touches the ground.

Only if many snowflakes fall
and cool the earth
melting themselves in the process
can one snowflake
remain intact.

And then the next one,
and the next,
and the next,
until soon there are so many
that trees are bowed to the ground
and cars are crashing on the highway
and power lines are falling down
and humans must slow down
or die.

This is not the fault of the snow,
let us be clear.
It is just being itself.
We are the ones
who must accept reality
and change.

And if we do—
if we slow down,
and learn to pay attention—
snow offers itself to us for our joy.

O the beauty of it in the quiet wood,
and on the mountain slope,
and falling like feathers from the sky!
The joy of sliding fast downhill
with people we love all around us!

One snowflake, alone,
is insubstantial.  It melts
the moment it touches the ground.
Massed together,
snow has weight, and power,
and brings all of our hurrying to a halt—
and then spins us around
until we are breathless,
and our faces are turned toward joy.

Let us take a lesson from the snow.

Everyday Miracles

I was meditating on the front porch
in the half-light of dawn
when I saw movement,
which was two bucks coming toward me
on the embankment above the house.
They stopped and stretched out their necks
to the east and blew as if slightly alarmed
but uncertain as to why.
Then a marten hurried westward
at the bottom of the embankment
and as soon as it was by
the deer relaxed.
I had never before seen a marten.

A relative gave us a pot of amaryllis
for Christmas:
three dry old bulbs in potting soil.
Dubious, we watered them,
and within a few days
the green tips of leaves were emerging.
Now they are two feet tall and stately,
and juicy stalks that clearly contain flowers
are also growing toward the light.
Soon they will open
to reveal showy scarlet lilies.

The morning after a hard rain
I was in my customary place on the porch
when a shaft of sunlight
pierced the forest canopy
and landed on a little Japanese maple,
which lit up, as every raindrop
on every bare branch and twig
suddenly blazed with reflected light.
Then as if that weren’t enough
a family of birds—
I couldn’t see what kind—
landed in a nearby cedar and
sent forth a glorious fountain
of beautiful song.
My heart stopped,
just for a moment,
and when it started again
my face was full of tears.

These are everyday miracles,
just the kind of thing
that happens all the time—
but how intricate!
How marvelous!
So many different kinds of beings,
each with its own beauty,
each with its own gifts,
each with its own power to dazzle,
all interwoven in the same web of life.

May our response to these miracles
be reverence
and gratitude
and love
and may we therefore
act accordingly.

“We are caught
in an inescapable network of mutuality,

tied in a single garment of destiny. 
Injustice anywhere
is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 


The Day It Finally Rained

When it finally, finally rained
and the air smelled so sweet
we took the children for a walk
and they noticed everything:

The foal in the neighbor’s paddock,
the acorns on the ground,
the tips of cedar cones—
like roses carved of wood—
the prickly liquidambar seedpods,
and the brilliant colors of the leaves
backlit as they were
by a shaft of sunlight
coming from under the clouds.

Water droplets glistened
on cedars, firs, and pines,
“like jewels,” someone said,
and the girl child repeated:
“the trees are wearing jewels!”

With faces alight
and cold and wet little hands
our darlings brought us treasures
and we all filled our pockets.

Then, that night before dinner
we decorated the table
with acorns and leaves and pieces of bark,
moss and lichen and roses of wood.

Surely no table has ever been more beautiful
than that one,
on the day it finally, finally rained.

(Dear God, Spirit of Life, Ground of Our Being:
This is what we ask

for all families, and all children:
this much beauty and abundance and love.  

Surely it cannot be too much to ask.
Surely it cannot be too much to give.
Please, help us make it so.  Amen.)



How to Remember

The world will give you gifts if you pay attention:

A curl of red madrone bark,
fallen from the shiny surface
of the brilliantly colored tree.

Half of a tiny paper wasps’ nest,
wavy striations of white and gray
painstakingly arranged around a perfect circle.

A bird’s nest woven from pine needles
and lined with grass and lichen and moss.

Acorns whose caps fit exactly so,
each holding within it
the beginning of a giant oak.

A piece of maple bark drilled by woodpeckers,
the holes lined up with perfect precision.

Iridescent blue feathers from a Stellar’s jay,
and bright orange ones from a flicker.

A clump of moss and some blue-gray lichen;
most of the shell of a blue robin’s egg;
an owl pellet with tiny bones in;
bark from a pine and more from an oak,
each vastly different from the other.

If you watch carefully, all of these can be yours—
they land at your feet
every day.

What will you do with them?

Make an altar.

Place each item carefully,
considering its relationship
with all the others.

Each time you walk by,
let your eye land
on one small, perfect thing,
and think of how it was made.

Be astonished.
Be joyful and filled with gladness.

Then you will remember
(then you will re-member)
who you truly are
and why you are here
in this gorgeous and hurting world.