In my 80s

January 22, 2019

In recent years I have been awed by the larger setting that dwarfs our physical universe and that could contain a myriad of universes. I have stood in amazement of the ultimate unity of which you and I are a part. I have sensed, in speechless wonder, that all of THIS is now.

All of these insights and impressions have been gifts of steady rumination, quiet mindfulness and meditation. — exercises in spirituality.

Nonetheless, at the same time I have come to a new understanding of the function of world religions. In all ages and in all zones, among peasants and rulers, in the imagination of artists and minds of intellectuals, religion has been an interpreter of the mysteries that lie far beyond the knowledge or imagination of mortals living on one planet in one galaxy in one universe.

To be sure, religious interpretations have been many, and often contradictory. The interpretations typically trace to the distant past reconstructed in the experience of an individual or group, then developed into a story made sacred in its retelling over time and place with continuing interpretations to make the story relevant. 

Thus, an individual living within a zone of a particular religion is conditioned to adopt an explanation of reality. That is, the religion serves up answers to the ultimate questions and most individuals within the reach of the religion are of such a make-up to be accepting of the explanation. .  

The force of religious explanation can lead to vastly different mindsets and philosophies. Religions have, in some cases, established a duality of human and divine, earth and heaven. Some religions have posited a time line leading to a culmination; other religions imagine a circular, recurring life line. Religions have been known to not only condone but also to institutionalize anti-social behaviors such as human sacrifice, war, and fear. Typically religions define what is good and what is evil and how the good became good and how the evil became evil. 

Because I moved geographically out of the religious community of my birth, I have been able to view that heritage from a distance that has encouraged objectivity. Concurrently I entered into other communities whose religion(s) complemented and/or contradicted my own. This distance has helped me to understand better the ways and means of religion to interpret the realities of life and what lies beyond human life.

Here is a lovely paragraph from Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk, that reveals the shaping of faith.

I began translating the Visitation Card yesterday. It is a very solid and even inspiring document. Dom Dominique handled it in a way that impressed me deeply. I was especially interested in one page he had crossed out — he had changed some ideas and reintroduced them in another form, so that the meaning remained more or less the same, but the language was more serene and more objective and more profound. All the things he eliminated were good in themselves, but in the end the document was better, and included everything he wanted to say. And so I have seen how the Holy Ghost works in the machinery of a religious Order. How peacefully and smoothly He produces His effects. The atmosphere of the house is  all tranquility and happiness.

So it is that I have a regard for what Karen Armstrong calls “the history of God.” That human history tells of the comings and goings of religion and the roles each religion has played in the construction of meaning. As I continue to sense the larger dimensions of meanings, surely I will continue to gain insights for living, for appreciation and for faith from the religion into which I was born and from other religions that I have encountered. 

In my 80s

January 22, 2019

Setting : a very cold Monday morning, minus 2 degrees … clear skies, bright sunshine … Martin Luther King Day.

People: NaNa and Pop Pop … Lucy and Annie who don’t have school today.

Breakfast: French toast topped with butter and Nutella and blackberries and bananas and blueberries and maple syrup.

Activities: reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

In my 80s

The seamless whole.

A reader responded. 

The assumption seems to be that wholeness is goodness but why should we do away with the seams? As I understand it, a seam is a place where something is joined together or is breaking apart. I think it’s dreaming to assume people can or should be seamless wholes. But seamed wholes may be possible.”

Evidences outside and inside confirm this reader’s sentiment. Each of usknows the history of our own brokenness and many of us can still feel or see the sometimes ragged seams.

On a much grander scale we feel the ragged edges between communities, cultures, nations and even continents. Even while the astronauts looked out on planet earth and felt its one-ness, we knew it aint so when you looked close up. One person has a full pantry, another person holds her starving baby. One person motors across country, another walks across a parched desert. One person expresses an opinion that becomes op ed, another person is imprisoned for expressing what is deemed to be seditious. Seams of this kind more than match the fault lines that induce earthquakes.

Can there be a seamless whole?

I want to hold out a bit longer for the seamless whole. I am able to suggest only this: “we see through a darkened glass.” Because of extreme social and physical (human) myopia, we can’t see the whole. Therefore what we do experience might, from a much larger point of view, fit together. Might. It’s a possibility that provokes my heart and brain.

In my 80s

January 19, 2019

Attending to what is around me:  

  • the rain has, as forecast, turned to snow
  • a wind slides here from up north
  • the temp is falling fast
  • two big ash logs crackle in the fire
  • Mstislav Rostropovich is playing Bach cello suites
  • Rudy sits on the sofa back, immediately behind me
  • a chap book written by Sue Clemmer Steiner, arrived this afternoon
  • the tea cup is emptying too quickly
  • Mary Oliver’s poem excerpt from “When death comes”

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

In my 80s

January 18, 2019

Winter nuptial

All we can do is wait.
no use standing up 
because there’s no aisle
besides, they’ll sneak in —
hot pants from the tropics, 
shy frigidity from the arctic igloo —
they’ll meet nearby somewhere
not making an appointment,
but doing a wild elopement,
Off they’ll race, no exact route,
careening east or northeast
and exhausted, settle down
over the sea.

All we can do is wait
for leftover cake and icing.

In my 80s

Mary Oliver

To honor Mary Oliver at her passing, I shall include here one of her poems.

White Flowers

Last night
in the fields
I lay down in the darkness
to think about death,
but instead I fell asleep,
as if in a vast and sloping room
filled with those white flowers
that open all summer,
sticky and untidy,
in the warm fields.
When I woke
the morning light was just slipping
in front of the stars,
and I was covered

with blossoms.
I don’t know
how it happened —
I don’t know
if my body went diving down
under the sugary vines
in some sleep-sharpened affinity
with the depths, or whether
that green energy
rose like a wave
and curled over me, claiming me
in its husky arms.
I pushed them away, but I didn’t rise.
Never in my life had I felt so plush,
or so slippery,

or so resplendently empty.
Never in my life
had I felt myself so near
that porous line
where my own body was done with
and the roots and the stems and the flowers

In my 80s

January 16, 2019


Let us  suppose that when you rise tomorrow morning, you are inspired to say to yourself “Today I am going to create something in celebration of life.”

What might you create?

The question is stupefying but let’s play along. What might you create?

You may use your hands, feet, back, face, and/or ears. You may wish to work with earth or sky, animals or birds, foods or liquids, rocks or sand, water, instruments of any kind — from the lab or the studio, you may use any manufactured object such as an automobile. Actually, I can’t think of any restriction for your work. What might you create that touches earth with heaven?

Wouldn’t it be a blessing if each of my readers were to gather some time in the future to share what was made. It would be a recital in deepest regard for the privilege of living.

What might I take to that meeting? Hmmm.  Don’t know. Oh, an idea just now came to me. I would prepare a studio exhibit of the skies — twelve photos that tell the amazing fact of what I might see when I simply look up. I would not have to use words. Or motions. But simply show the photos featuring what’s been over my head. 

  • What would you create?