Whether walking in the woods, on the shore, or over the rocks, I try to pay attention. I am always astonished!
Category Archives: Poetry
In her recent Baptist News Global piece, Hidden pencils, urgent warnings and instructions Mary Oliver left the Church, Carol Davis Younger offered a lovely tribute to poet, Mary Oliver, and an insightful exhortation to the church to approach “Scripture – and our world – with the holy curiosity and expectancy Oliver did when she went to the woods and to the shore.” As Younger shared her experience with Upstream, I caught my breath and embraced the mutuality of our stories, our experiences, and perhaps our feelings – Mary Oliver’s, Younger’s, and mine.
I too became better acquainted with Mary Oliver through her collected essays in Upstream. I was drawn to the book, so much so that I paid full, independent bookstore price for it. Something I rarely ever do! I had admired Mary Oliver as a poet and was curious as to her prose. Being a woods wanderer and stream jumper, the title Upstream, and its connotation of going against the flow, which I often do, piqued my interest. The cover photo looked like a place I would enjoy. I fully understand Younger’s response to the essay, “Power and Time.” As I read the essay, I felt that I was personally being both affirmed and admonished. I am keenly aware that my creative self needs solitude, a place apart, without interruptions. Oliver buoyed my spirit with her affirmation of this then promptly admonished me for being my own primary interrupter.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? –Upstream, page 23
For me it says that I need to attend this civic meeting, that I should give my wife more time and attention, that I must do my share of home maintenance. Returning to the creative work often finds that the spark of an idea has dimmed and the flow of words has dried up. In the creative work we can be, and probably are, our worst impediment.
Oliver tells me that the “machinery of creativity” can’t be controlled or regulated. I believe it! More times than I want to recount I have awakened in the wee hours of the morning with an idea or a string of narrative going through my head. Over time, I have learned it is best that I go ahead, drag myself out of bed, and write it down for I will not be able to sleep if I don’t.
For me, as perhaps for Anderson, Oliver’s most unsettling words are:
The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. — Upstream, page 30
I most assuredly will join Anderson as a “candidate for future regret” as I see a bouquet of withered buds of exciting ideas and plans that failed to blossom because I did not nurture them with power and time. I suppose my task going forward is to recognize the tiny buds of creative thoughts and ideas and give them their needed power and time. I suspect it will be an erratic path even in all my efforts to “keep my eyes on eternity,” reject the responsibilities that have claimed me, and discard the “many heavy coats” that burden.
My prayer, with a bit of assist from Mary Oliver, as I move forward is:
In my wild and precious life
May I stay forever in the stream.
May I pay attention and find my devotion.
May I be astonished at the profound simplicity of our natural
Even as I marvel at its intricate complexities.
May I be humbled by its majesty.
May I revere the fruit of the earth-the grass, the flower, the tree.
May I respect the creature — the minuscule and the mighty.
May I glorify the Creator of it all and be grateful.
May I hear the silence that calls to me.
May I feel the rippling waters.
May I stay forever in the stream.
Whether with voice or pen in hand, may I tell about it all.
This gallery contains 34 photos.
As we observe the Winter Solstice take a minute marvel at the glorious Fall we have enjoyed.
Quite good at building bridges, we are! Such marvels of engineering!
Gleaming steel, expansive cables, massive concrete
Carry burdens of rushing cars, trucks, trains, and even plodding feet
Over barriers of water-tumultuous and serene, abysmal chasms, plunging gorges.
Bridges conceived in survival, sometimes social, often economic.
Bridges born of intellect and ingenuity; completed in grit and determination.
We admire them, we dedicate them, we name them–
Brooklyn, Tower, Penang, Sydney Harbor, Golden Gate.
What bridges beckon us today to a renewed era of building?
Bridges to peace! Bridges more difficult, more complex perhaps, more urgent indeed!
Bridges of warm smiles, outreached hands, eyes that truly see, listening ears.
Bridges of understanding and compassionate hearts, minds guided by reason.
Bridges of kind deeds, gentle actions, firm commitments, and diligent compromise.
Bridges over barriers of nationalism, abysmal chasms of religion,
Plunging gorges of race, the waters of diverse cultures whether raging or serene.
Bridges to peace conceived in the roots of our humanity
Born of the kindred spirits of sacredness and dignity of every life.
Do we desire them, will we build them, dedicate them, name them –
Respect, Acceptance, Affirmation, Love?
We see our Muslim brothers, our African sisters, the fleeing Latino children,
The starving Sudanese, the terrorized Assyrians, our neighbors next door.
We look in the eyes. We hear the cries from the other side.
Eyes clouded with fear, sorrow, desperation, hopelessness, hate.
Cries filled with anguish, horror, hunger, grief, and anger.
We see and hear their hearts. We know and feel our own.
Let us heed the beckoning. Let us build bridges to peace.
Let us dedicate and name them: Respect, Acceptance, Affirmation, and Love.
Quite good at building bridges! Yes, we can be! Such marvels of our humanity!
Perhaps one of the greatest– no, really the greatest — struggles in my life was reconciling my faith tradition with my life long same – sex orientation. I am happy to report that that is no longer a struggle, and I have been blessed with a loving partner. In three short months, she and I will celebrate 14 years of committed, monogamous, covenant relationship. This poem written in 1998 reflects a portion of that struggle and journey.
She walked into my life and knocked upon my door.
She came into the light, and how my heart did soar.
I said this cannot be, yet it was reality.
This woman, this light, this love within my heart.
I said she’s just a friend, and my heart knew she was more.
I said this cannot be. Go away and come no more.
My heart, oh how it ached to see her walk out the door.
This woman, this light, this love within my heart.
I said this cannot be for my Lord it would not please.
I struggled with my heart ’til it broke in agony.
Then I rested in His Love for comfort and for strength
And heard the truth of His heart, my Lord and my strength.
“I look into your heart in Spirit and in Truth.
I see how it breaks, and I feel every ache.
Know that I love you, and I love her, too.
I know the truth that you both love me, too.
What I ask of you is this. Live a life that is true
In commitment and faith as you receive my Grace.
Oh, yes it can be. She is more that just a friend.
This woman, this light, this love within your heart.
I give you courage and strength to live your life that is true
In commitment and faith by receiving my Grace.
Oh yes, it surely is. She is more than just a friend,
This woman, the light, My Love within your heart.”
In the spring of 1998 after experiencing a series of “reversals” – that means things were falling apart and “going to hell in a hand basket” in most areas of my life — physical health, relationship, professional, financial — I took off. I needed a break. “Get out of Dodge.” Change of scenery! I needed respite, recovery, and renewal. Pulling up stakes and leaving was different for me, yet I knew I had to go. I had seen an advertisement for seasonal help wanted at Grand Teton National Park. Actually, I gave the ad to my then twenty-year-old son thinking he might be interested. He wasn’t. The more I thought about it – why not me! The twenty year old son was working part time, still living at home, and perfectly capable of taking care of himself and the house. The seventeen-year-old son was going to be away all summer performing with The Cadets, a Drum Corp International group. Nothing was keeping me there but the part time job I had at the public library. So, why not! I applied and they hired me. I took a step of faith and quit the library job trusting that I would find another job upon my return. The younger son and I left home on Saturday, May 23rd. I dropped him at the Dallas airport for his flight to New York and his summer adventure. I headed out on my journey. I was a mess of brokenness! I remember tears clouding my eyes and telling myself “Stop this, you can’t see the road,” as I headed west out of Dallas. I was excited, yet I was anxious. Could I do this? What was out there on the road ahead? All I knew for sure was that I had committed to show up for work in the Grand Tetons on Tuesday, May 26th. I had 1,300 miles ahead of me. I was on the road!
JOURNAL Entry: 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 25, 1998 – Somewhere along US Highway 287 north of Rawlings, WY
Along the Road
Not a cloud in the sky.
Not another human being as far as eye can see.
Just wide open spaces and gentle cool breezes.
The eastern sky ablaze in the morning sun.
A ribbon of road before me.
A path of life to follow.
A journey to know.
A destiny to experience.
A history behind
Rich in joy and sorrow, love and tears.
A Hope ahead and today just as rich
Filled with joy and peace, adventure and rest,
Love and sorrow.
All to be known along the journey.
All to be experienced.
Each and all a destiny of their own.
The sun still shines.
The breezes still blow.
The road still winds forward.
The daily Destiny.
The Father knows I trust –
A Heart full of Hope.
Yes! I dance and sing – YES,
Along the road!
Not long after arriving in the Grand Tetons I discovered the Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces” which became one of the many road songs that lifted my spirit and nourished my soul during the months in the mountains. Even today when I listen to it my heart swells with cherished memories, joy, and thankfulness, as well as the knowledge that I sometimes simply need to hit the road and experience again wide open spaces!!