Monday, October 09, 2017

Experiencing Beauty

Each day seems to bring news of so much ugliness; violence, conflict, devastation, death, etc., etc. The only antidote that I have found to the sadness and helplessness is to both carry and seek beauty to the best of my ability. This was indeed a weekend of experiencing beauty.
My wife, Mary, recently made contact with a group called “Street Soldiers” that gathers every Friday evening in Albany to share food, clothing, and other necessities with folks who are homeless. Mary created and put together seven beautiful quilts that she wanted to give away. She also baked cookies and encouraged me to make a large pot of chili to share. It was a summer like October Friday evening as we gathered in Washington Park with this wonderfully caring group of folks. The beauty was in the joy expressed by both those giving and receiving. See photos by clicking here

Our family gathered on Sunday morning to prepare “Brendan’s Breakfast”, a pancake fundraiser to honor and remember our grandson, Brendan, who was killed in a motorcycle accident last summer. We work together to serve pancakes (all you can eat), bacon, juice, and coffee. All donations received are used for camp scholarships. Last fall/winter we raised almost $3,000. All of those funds were distributed this summer. It is a beautiful experience to watch my family work together and it always feels as if Brendan is there with us.
In between these two events, on Saturday afternoon, we traveled up to Cambridge, NY to visit Bedlam Farm. The farm is home to author, Jon Katz, and Maria, a very fine artist. We attended the spring open house and were inspired by Jon and Maria’s hospitality and compassion. Just beautiful.

John making a new friend, Donna Wynbrandt. They sang, "I've been working on the Railroad" together.
 John and The Tin Man

John and Red

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Autumn at Last

Late September days of temperatures in the 80's and 90's have finally given away to Autumn chill today. Reminded me of this from Harry Potter except it's happening on almost the last of September.

 “Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Navajo Prayer

Anne Hillerman, writing in her novel, Song of the Lion, shares this Navajoh prayer used in the early morning to greet a new day.

With beauty before me, may I walk
With beauty behind me, may I walk
With beauty below me, may I walk
With beauty above me, may I walk
With beauty all around me, may I walk

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Clouds of Sadness

Like a cloud, it descends upon me
Distorts my vision of self and others
Clarity is no longer possible
All is fuzzy, out of focus
Like a cloud, it will pass
Eventually, when the sun shines again

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rituals and Responsability

 I have been thinking recently about the connection between ritual and responsability. A responsability that can be to the animals, family, ourselves, others, community, etc. I remember that one of my daily rituals in the winter when I was on the farm in Iowa. The beef cattle were in a field a few miles from the main farm. In the cold weather the pond would freeze over during the night and this was where the cattle drank. My responsability/ritual was to drive over there early in the morning and chop a large hole in the ice. Every morning the cattle would see me coming and gather patiently at the edge of the pond. After I succesfully chopped through the ice they seemed to look at me gratefully as they lowered their heads into the water. I rmember fondly how our icy cold breaths would mingle in the winter air. This early morning ritual made getting out of a warm bed meaningful.

There was a time when writing in this blog was a daily ritual for me. It forced me to reflect, respond, and articulate the daily ebbs and flows of my life. I have not regularly practiced this "blogging" ritual since our family experienced a series of challenging and life altering occurrences. It is now time to again practice those rituals/responsabilities that connect me to friends and family. I believe that this is a significant part of the grief process and a neccesary step forward. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

"Keep Moving" by Dick Van Dyke

KEEP MOVING and other tips and truths about aging by Dick Van Dyke

                I loved reading this book. It is part memoir and part “how-to” on the art of aging. Van Dyke’s writing is optimistic, positive, energetic, filled with humor, and sprinkled with wise reflections on getting older. Van Dyke was 89 years old when he started writing the book. He is in good health, sharp of mind, and happily married to a woman over four decades younger than him.

                Here is what he shares in answer to the question, “So what do I think really matters.

                                1} Family and Friends
2} Questions (Always questioning about the meaning of life. Questions like; What can I   do to help? How can you be so sure? Am I using my time productively? Am I ok with myself? If not, why? Is my heart open?
                3) Music
                4) Books
                5) A Sense of Humor

Throughout the book the reader is treated to little examples of the author’s creativity and humor. An example is this limerick titled “A Separate Plot”.

There was a young man from Dallas
Who overdosed on Cialis
His body was laid
To rest in the shade
With a separate plot
For his phallus.

The final chapter of the book is a recent conversation between Van Dyke and his best friend, Carl Reiner, who is three years older than the author. Very funny. Finally, this poem.

The Thing That Lasts
The one thing that persists
From childhood through
Whatever age you are right now
Is the love we feel for one another
And still feel even more today.
Love is the thing that lasts.
You feel it more than the aches and pains.
You remember it when other memories fade.
You crave it when you have no taste
For anything else.
You pick it up when you feel weak.
It’s on your smile in the morning
And in your dreams at night.
It’s what you carry around with you every day.
It’s what you take with you.
It’s what you leave behind.
Love is the thing that lasts.
That makes it all worthwhile.

I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

This is the Day!

Whenever I have the opportunity to lead worship, I greet the people who are gathered with these words; "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) I begin with these words because (a) I do believe that each day is a gift and (b) that the appropriate response to a gift is joy and (c) I am eager to set a tone of gratitude and joy for the service as it begins. But there is more to it then that. Many days are joyless. Frederick Buechner has written the following which begins to get at the depth of the meaning of these words better then I can.

It is a moment of light surrounded on all sides by darkness and oblivion. In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another just like it and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.
"This is the day which the Lord has made," says Psalm 118. "Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (v. 24). Or weep and be sad in it for that matter. The point is to see it for what it is, because it will be gone before you know it. If you waste it, it is your life that you're wasting. If you look the other way, it may be the moment you've been waiting for always that you're missing.
All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from it. Today is the only day there is.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words