On seeing

December 31, 2015

I do not anticipate cataract surgery in 2016, nor do I expect to have to make a major change in the lenses of my glasses. However, I resolve to raise the quality of my seeing throughout the year.

I have eyes that see but my seeing in 2016 will depend upon more than what meets my eyes. Indeed a lot of seeing is physical. But understanding requires input from all of the senses along with emotional, intellectual and spiritual processing. I want the kind of sight that leads to insight.

Seeing is framed by one’s point of view. My point of view is affected by my particular vantage. And that vantage has to do with where I am within the vast map of human experience. Surely there are times ahead when I will have to re-locate in order to see from the other’s point of view.

In 2016 I hope on occasion to take in grand vistas. With equal anticipation, I want to focus close-up on the myriad of minutia that contribute parts to the whole.

Besides those occasions when my seeing is passive, I welcome those moments of conscious active searching, even though it be for a small needle. I want to be able to flip on the light without having to depend upon a critical event to shake me out of stupor. I want to cultivate new ways of seeing.

OK for now. I’ll see you later.


December 30, 2015

The art and science of baseball fix my attention, raise my heartbeat and incite my awe. Let’s say the bases are loaded, only one out. The batter grounds hard on the line to third, the fielder seemingly uses one total-body maneuver to grab the ball and throw to the catcher whose arm is ready to throw to first as his foot touches home plate. Double play, inning over.

Soccer and volleyball and basketball do their own versions of art and science, no less sophisticated than baseball. I just happen not to be as informed of their game nuances.

American football is a product — may I say it — of graduate-level art and science. I could sit spell-bound for hours watching the professionals do their precise craft. But I don’t. Yes, I watch a bit, but in prayer. I am a sports fan’s troubled soul. Why?

Human bodily harm.  I might cite the weekly long-column injury report from the National Football League. Instead I’ll remind you that the Indianapolis Colt’s first-string quarterback Andrew Luck is out for most of the season with a lacerated kidney. The second-string quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is out with a separated rib and and a shoulder sprain. The third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has now been placed on injured reserve. I do not know the particulars of the injury. The Colts are now looking for a quarterback for the final game. This paragraph hasn’t identified what is likely the worst of the football injuries — concussions. How can I not be a troubled soul while watching twenty-first century gladiation?

Illegal drugs. Years ago professional baseball player Jose Canseco publicly charged that pro sports figures were using illegal performance drugs. He was roundly jeered and, as Christine Brennan writes in today’s paper, “right.”  Thereafter we learned the truth of the lies and deceptions of Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and many others. The one case that ripped me apart was cyclist Floyd Landis, son of a Mennonite family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who had the evil balls to use his family’s piety in his false defense. Did Peyton Manning cheat?  His denial is much too loud for me.

Economic determinism. Money rules many pro and amateur sports. Why did we have forty-plus bowl games, some of them played by teams with losing records? College athletic departments want more money. Why is Disney, whose Star Wars has grossed more than a billion dollars, now in a troubled economic moment?  Because its ESPN can’t survive what college and pro sports teams demand in their multi-year broadcast contracts. Meanwhile players crave incredibly huge salaries while owners assure their own gain. I think it might be possible for a poor family in Indianapolis to feed its four members for more than a month on what one good Colts ticket costs.

On New Year’s Eve there will be two interesting bowl games, one of them involving a Big Ten team Michigan State. Prayer time?


December 29, 2015

Three books grace my quiet hours this week. Directly or indirectly, sympathetically or ironically, each touches on religion.


The first comes from the massive, newly published Norton Anthology of World Religions. Its chief editor Jack Miles in the “General Introduction:”

One lesson that deepening acquaintance with the full religious variety of the world beyond the West has taught Western scholars, whether secular or religious in their personal beliefs, is that the very distinction between secular and religious is a Western habit of mind. It is not just abstractions such as Hinduism and Buddhism that are Western coinages. The word religion is a Western coinage reflecting a distinctly Western history — as is, of course, the very expression the West. The three terms religion, secularity, and the West are all problematic and all interconnected …

Poet Mary Oliver, I might suppose, never intends to write about religion but much of her work fits what I would categorize as naturally sacred.  This from New and Selected Poems, Volume I

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carried leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of the hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Henry David Thoreau never had the privilege of reading Mary Oliver, but he was familiar with world religion. Here is a short excerpt from his  Sunday rumination during A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

I am not sure but I should betake myself in extremities to the liberal divinities of Greece, rather than to my country’s God. Jehovah, though with us he has acquired new attributes, is more absolute and unapproachable, but hardly more divine, than Jove. He is not much of a gentleman, not so gracious and catholic, he does not exert so intimate and genial an influence on nature, as many a god of the Greeks. I should fear the infinite power and inflexible justice of the almighty mortal, hardly as yet apotheosized, so wholly masculine, with no sister Juno, no Apollo, no Venus, nor Minerva, to intercede for me.


December 28, 2015

After Christmas and before New Year’s Eve, we’re here in the meantime, poised serenely in now.

  • For those who mailed early, there are no cards to write.
  • For those who finished term projects, there is no homework to complete.
  • For those who stocked up, there is no grocery run.
  • For those who serviced the car in early December, there is no garage appointment.
  • For those of simple tastes, there are no gifts to take back.
  • For those who don’t drink, there is no alcohol to buy.
  • For those with no anxiety, there is no pill to take.

Now, in this interim when future has not yet become present and present has not yet become past. Now.



December 27

Yesterday the weather confirmed that forecasters get it right an amazingly high number of times.  Rumbling thunder, lots of rain. Here in a woods along a back road that runs by Lye Creek, we received it all with nary a complaint.

It was a fancy fungus day in the wet woodlands.



Lye Creek all day was making much ado about the downpour.




My camera wasn’t quick enough to snap the seven deer who didn’t stop to pose. It looked to me that they were puddle hopping. 

Christmas extended

December 26, 2015

Like Amish, we are celebrating Christmas on December 25 and 26. Then we shall add another day, December 27.  Three days together, all thirteen of us.

The table last evening was laden and lovely.


The food Juniper Spoon’s very best.

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The evening — a ping pong tournament, suspend, books, cards, and best of all, being together.


Yes, the angels are singing.




December 25, 2015

Throughout December I have experienced darkness. Darkness brought on by terrorism and retaliation. Darkness in this culture’s gun violence. Darkness in the weather. The natural darkness caused in the northern hemisphere due to the tilt of the earth’s axis.

And darkness inside.

I now notice how many of my photographs taken this month are dark, some of them lacking a source of light, some of them threatening as the following one that shows on oncoming storm.


“ It takes darkness to be aware of the light.” (Treasure Tatum)  Indeed as I wandered with the camera, the darkness emphasized the need for light, however small that light.


There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.” wrote Leonard Cohen. 


Along the way I came upon phrases and axioms and verses that commented on the darkness/light dynamic.  Anthony Doerr’s  All the light we cannot see  gives to us the reminder of the lights around us that we do not apprehend.

J.K. Rowling writes that “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

And I have numerous times during this month breathed the first words of a hymn “Sometimes a light surprises … .”

I am confidently seeking light, ready to be surprised.