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—
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.





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.)



This Being Human


Spirit of Life, Source and Sustainer of all:

Now is the time of brilliant leaves against blue sky,
scudding clouds on the horizon,
shortening days.

As leaves fall, we become aware
of how temporary all things are,
and how beautiful.

We realize how small we are
in the face of the great mystery
that is life and death.

This being human is not easy:
being alive and knowing we have to die,
loving our world and knowing
its terrible pain.

How can we cope?

Perhaps if we breathe.
Perhaps if we lean a little
toward someone sitting next to us.

Perhaps if we think of a brilliant red maple leaf,
twirling down from the very top of a tall tree,
all the way to the ground.

Perhaps if we remember that this brief time
of being alive
is our one chance
to really love,
and our one chance
to heal what is wrong here.

Perhaps if we remember
that when we are finished,
we are gathered back into You–
like the leaf that lives
and then falls in a flash of scarlet
to become part of the whole again,
and nourish new life.

Blessed be.

Ravished by the World

If you ever get sick and tired of the world,
remember that you are dying.
(We all are.)

Imagine you will die tomorrow.
Look around you now.
What do you see?
Miracles, everywhere.

The bark on the oak tree,
for instance,
is completely different
from the bark on the cedar
which in turn
could not be more different
than that on the pine.

Shaggy shingles overlapping,
dark and craggy braided rivers,
puzzle pieces interlocking:
how do such wonders happen?

And the seeds!  The seeds!
Acorns wearing miniature berets,
tiny split shells twirling down from the sky,
cones that need fire to open all the way.

Just one tree is miracle enough to contemplate
for a thousand years:

the movement of water into roots
the movement of sap up the trunk
the conversion of sunlight into sugar
the movement of sugar back to the roots

I am ravished by the world
and must ration myself to one miracle per day
otherwise I would do nothing
but stand outside, mouth open,
staring up into the trees.

Remembering we are dying
is a wonderful way to live.

Lessons from the Trees

Spirit of Life, Spirit of Courage and Connectedness:

Cold winds are blowing hard.
Massive cedars sway
as if they are no more than saplings,
their tops and branches whipping through the air
in a frightening dance:
if one fell it would crush the whole house.

But the cedars know a few things
as do the oaks and the pines and the willows too.

One is that when the harsh winds blow
the trees who bend and sway and dance in the storm
are the ones who live.
The ones who will not dance are the ones
whose trunks get snapped in two.

Another is that those whose roots
go deep into the earth
and join beneath the soil with the roots of others
are the ones who can bend and sway
and dance in the storm
without falling over.

A third is that a tree standing alone
is more vulnerable to the force
of the great winds
than one which lives in community.
Trees are stronger together.

Strength is not the ability to stand alone.
Strength is not the ability to rigidly resist.
Strength is the ability to remain rooted in the earth,
connected with others,
so we can bend and sway and dance
and thereby dissipate the energy of the wind.

Spirit of Life, Spirit of Courage and Connectedness:
In this time when the cold winds of fear and cruelty
blow unceasing through our lands,
open our hearts to these lessons
from the trees.

Blessed be.


To Do What is Needed

Great Spirit of Life:

My heart is sore today, and I am lonely.
For lo, these many years I have been failing you.

This blue-green ball
that you have given us to live on,
Your sacred body,
this miracle of interwoven cycles
of water, air, earth, fire,
is heating up.

One by one we are killing our relatives:
tigers, grizzlies, elephants, oaks, otters,
whales, salmon, grasses, butterflies,
gorillas, orchids, lorikeets.

Thousand by thousand we are killing ourselves:
women and children first.

My voice is small
a whisper lost in the wind
Those who hear it laugh at me
and tell me how impractical I am
to want to find a way to live here
in love.

But please,
help me not give up.
Help me receive Your gifts
and use them to save us all.

Grant me the presence of a mountain
implacable and unarguable
Grant me hope that grows like tiny tendrils of grass
after just one rain
Let me be rooted deeply and reach high, like the pine tree
flexible enough to weather the storm
Let me be as persistent as water
wearing away resistance one molecule at a time
Let me be as fierce as a grizzly bear
that I might protect all of the earth’s young
Grant me the endurance of the salmon,
the instinct to keep swimming upstream.
Grant me the vision of the hawk,
that I might see what to do next
Let me keep the wonder of a tiny child
and the joy of a baby’s belly laugh

Great Spirit,
the Web of Life is torn.
I place myself in your hands,
that you might use me to mend it.
Keep my heart full of the love that will sustain me
that I might find a way to sustain You.

Thank you for all you have given me.

Blessed Be

Unto the Hills

When I am out here in the hills,
I am in God.

I am air warming and rising and cooling and falling; I am the hawk soaring on the air currents; I am the turkey vulture sweeping out from the rock over the canyon. I am the patient stone, worn to smoothness by millennia of caressing water; I am the water flowing, carrying, carving, rushing, quieting. I am trees rooted deeply and reaching high; I am wind dancing in the trees; I am the play between trees and wind; I am the song the two together make. I am the rocks on the hillside and the rocks inside the hill; I am the heaved and folded layers of the earth’s crust. I am the blue sky, the gold sun, the tiny white cloud, the fragrant green leaves, the rustling dry grass, the glinting darting dragonfly. I am bone, blood, sinew, muscle; I am the trail made by unseen deer, I am the walker on the trail. I am nothing. i am Everything.

Sometimes it is Necessary

Sometimes it is necessary
to lie on your back
upon the face of the earth
and look up at the sky.

There might be clouds
or there might not.
There might be a bird
or a whole flock of birds
or there might not.

What is important is looking up.

Today I watched wisps of cirrus clouds moving fast
across a field of ultramarine blue
framed all around by the tops of trees:

a pine, sighing in the breeze
the cone shapes of cedars and firs
bare branches of oaks in the spaces between.

All winter long I have lain on my back
and watched the trees move against the sky,
wanting to know what they were writing there.

Today there were leaf buds on the oaks.

(March 2016)