Monday, December 30, 2019

My poem for today …


He sat beside a vase of flowers
and felt filled up with gentleness.
The seeming chaos and distress
of all the world was gone. The powers

he felt were soft and reassuring.
The sunshine through the windows flowed
into him like streams, and slowed
him down, and helped him start to sing.

Carnations were his audience.
He sang a song he’d never heard,
of sunshine and a grateful bird
who didn’t have the common sense

to be unhappy and complain.
The flowers seemed to like his song
and shined more pink and bright. Along
the western hills a single lane

of birds was slowing down to hear
a guy sing out with mellowness and praise.
A squirrel on the lawn in rays
of sunlight stopped and raised its ear.


Like many of us, I’ve been fighting fear for most of my life, but now, in my 70s, I see that I probably should have been giving it a good-natured “hello”, and perhaps even setting out dinner for it. Strangely, my resistance to fear has only seemed to enable it to spread and grow stronger. The more I’ve fought to push fear out, the more powerful it seemed to become. So, I guess I’m tossing in the towel. I’m sending up the ceasefire flag so fear can see I’m not afraid of it. In fact, I’ve started putting out invitations: “Please come in, fear. I’ll set out dinner for you. Let’s relax and learn about each other. Linger as long as you want.”
Fear, I’m finding, often disappears fairly soon in the face of simple hospitality.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

My poem for today …


He saw some branches shaking in a breeze,
and clearly knew that all the force that frees

the branches isn’t in the branches, but in
the breeze itself. The trees receive the spin

and whirl of a breeze, and it remakes
their lives. For patient branches, all it takes

is letting breezes do their swirling dance
with them, and soon the branches start to prance.

He saw what he had rarely seen, that he
could do the same, could be a patient sea

that rolls or sleeps as wisdom blows across
it in the storms of life or in the flow and toss

of daily living. He saw that he is not the one
who does the work of life, but that the fun

of living comes from letting go and letting
Spirit do the work. He saw that getting

free involves allowing forces even larger than
the universe itself to swirl and roll and fan

his life. Like branches in a breeze, he’s in
the best of hands, and cannot help but win.


One day, visiting my grandchildren at their house in the countryside, I started messing around with some small stones on one of the many stone walls on the property – just seeing what structure I could create in a few minutes. I had no design in mind, only the desire to do something spontaneous and set the stones wherever my hands wished them to be. If someone had asked me what I was building, I might have said “whatever my hands wish” – or maybe, like so many young people today, just “whatever”, perhaps with a suitable shrug. However, there would be no spirit of indifference or exasperation in my “whatever”, as there often seems to be when I hear the word spoken. If I said “whatever”, it would be because whatever I build with those small stones would be something special to me. I guess, in a way, I’m a whatever kind of guy. Whatever a day brings, I try to see what it has that can help me. I know that whatever happens a minute from now is the truth for that moment, and whatever thought I have at any moment helps me, somehow, be exactly who I’m supposed to be. It’s a good word for me. I’m more likely to smile than shrug when I say “whatever”.


My poem for today …


He thought he was a separate thing, apart,
inside a universe of other separate things
surrounding him and causing him to start
a fight at every turn with all the “kings”

that tried to rule him, kings like doubt and lack
and illness. Then one day he saw a light
that shined so clear and bright he turned his back
on his belief in separateness. The sight

of something new came into view, a world
where nothing was alone and frail, but all
was part of one eternal flow that curled
around and through and over like a shawl

of well-made oneness. He could now
see how mistaken he had been! He saw
a world that clearly showed him how
an endless oneness was the only king and law!

Now, he lives in peace and feels oneness sing
of safety like a loving, calming king.

Cia is away today with her good friends Evelyn and Peter, so this morning I had the unusual experience of exercising by myself. I had arranged to meet my good friend Alan at McQuades for coffee at 10:00, so I left the house around 9:00, walked down to the cemetery, then back up to the market for coffee and a visit with Alan, and then back home, a total of about 3 miles – not especially brisk or strenuous exercise, but good enough to bring a fresh feeling to my fortunate 78-year-old body.

Our chalkboard poem for today …

Friday, December 27, 2019

This morning, we did a wonderful walk into Mystic – past the Mystic Seaport with occasional sightings of the river, then over the famous Mystic drawbridge, and ending at Sift Bake Shop for a tasty breakfast. Then, it was back home along the west side of the river, with lovely views of ships at the seaport and flocks of waterfowl, and finally home again on Riverbend Drive – a total walk of about 6.7 miles.

Then, this afternoon we saw the new movie version of Little Women, and we both loved it. I was struggling with tears now and then as the life of this deeply loving family unfolded. It helped me realize, for the umpteenth time, that all of life is a splendid blend of loathing and love, sadness and rejoicing, turmoil and tranquility. I left the theater a wiser man, friend, and husband.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

This morning, after a quick workout at the Y, we drove up to Jamie’s for a Christmas visit with him and Noah and Ava. It was, for me, quite astonishing to walk into their ‘great room’, so beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The centerpiece was a huge blazing fire in their historic fireplace, with enormous logs lit up and letting warmth flow out out to fill the room, something Patch and Hogan obviously love.

Above the fireplace was this marvelous decoration, made solely by Jamie and the kids. I loved studying it carefully to appreciate the various colors and features.

Their Christmas tree, cut down from the forest on Jamie’s property, is an old-fashioned beauty, with many homemade ornaments from years past. (While I was admiring the tree, Patch – like I often am – was obviously grateful just to be close to Delycia.)

Then, we all took a walk at the Audubon Preserve, a wonderful way to end our happy Christmas visit.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

11:43 a.m. Today, we took a lovely early morning Christmas walk in our favorite cemetery, and I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting place. It may seem strange that I loved walking in a cemetery on Christmas Day, but to me, each gravestone stands for life, not death – life lived to the fullest as part of the endless cycles of life that never started and will never end. Yes, there seems to be what we call ‘death’, but to me, this ‘death’ is simply the cycles of life rolling and shifting and transforming – never beginning and never ending. When I look up at clouds in the sky, they do seem to be separate and solid, just as my body seems separate and solid, but clouds are always shifting and blending and totally transforming, and so are our bodies – and our lives. The gravestones in the cemetery merely stand for one of the infinite shiftings Life has undergone in its timeless – and endless – journey through the universe. For a few years, these were humans among other humans, and now they may be breezes in a southern sky, or small sprouts of flowers, or just helpful air filling someone’s lungs – good things to think about during a Christmas walk in Elm Grove Cemetery.

This evening, we watched another wonderful version of “A Christmas Carol”, made in 1951 and starring Alistair Sim. I think we both loved it, especially the ending, when Scrooge joyously celebrates his newfound wisdom, telling his housekeeper that he now understands that he understands nothing, an insight – and a happy one – that I have had about myself more and more frequently as the years pass.

Ebenezer Scrooge

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

11:30 am: To celebrate this special day, we took an early (6:15 am) walk down the river into Mystic for breakfast at Sift, a wonderful bakeshop we were introduced to just yesterday by some dear friends. It was a mostly silent walk, as we were so busy just appreciating the mystery, the sacredness, of the light slowly dawning over the trees and homes and the Mystic Seaport ships and the silent, shining river. Light is such an important element in the Christmas story, and I think we both felt sort of suffused with light as we walked. A few cars passed us on the usually busy road, but in general there was, for us, a joyous silence as we walked, providing a vast space for our thoughts. Unfortunately, the bakeshop cafe was open, but there was no seating available, due to the tables being piled with bags of pre-ordered holiday pastries waiting to be picked up. We were disappointed, but we did pick out some take-home treats, and then had fun having breakfast at a nearby cafe. The walk home was equally satisfying, with brighter morning light and warming temperatures and fresh views of the river and big ships and geese going out for an early, icy swim.

We had a quiet and loving afternoon and evening, celebrating Christmas Eve with special peacefulness and affection. For dinner we had delicious chowder – two kinds – and crusty, tasty bread, and we enjoyed it in front of a comfy fire. We then watched about half of another film version of A Christmas Carol, but grew too sleepy to continue, and slowly snuggled into bed with each other by 9:00. Santa and his elves may have been busy, but we were lost in a Christmas dreamland within minutes.

Monday, December 23

8:07 a.m. I read this morning, in the Bible, that “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”, and it’s so obvious that the words speak directly to me. For sure, I have “walked in darkness” for most of life, in that I have lived most of my days with no clear sense of what this life is really all about. It’s truly been a vast mystery to me. I’ve enjoyed 78 privileged, fairly trouble-free years, but they’ve all been permeated and surrounded by a basic kind of befuddlement – the “darkness” that the Bible speaks of. I always pretended to know a lot, but inside, I knew that I knew almost nothing about the meaning of life. Only when I was about 35 years old did that darkness start to sometimes thin out and even occasionally disappear, and it happened because of a simple idea – a small but bright inner light that sometimes visited me. What the light said was, “The only reality is the present moment, right here and now, and it can’t be measured and therefore is infinite, and therefore can’t be damaged or destroyed or brought to an end, and therefore it – the present moment, here and now – should always be welcomed and even honored.” That simple but “great light” has been lit up for me, off and on, for the last 43 years – and this morning the Bible reminds me to be on the lookout for it today. It’s always shining, bright and clear, right here and now, and I just have to open my inner eyes and see it. Let’s see if I can do it today.

Below, our chalkboard poem for today /…

7:15 p.m. We had coffee and tasty pastries this morning with some dear young friends at a cafe in downtown Mystic, and it was an inspiring hour for me. These are sharp and spirited people who send out wonderful wisdom and openness. I loved listening to them, to their youthful insights and understandings. I felt lucky to learn from such full-of-life kids in their 40’s. .

Saturday, December 21, 2019

4:04 pm: Today, we drove up to watch Josh play in a basketball game, and it was all great fun – the scenic drive up through the forests of eastern Connecticut, the fun of seeing our grandson shooting and racing the court and giving his absolute all in the game, and the pure pleasure of visiting with Luke and Rachael and the three kids back in their cozy home. I am so impressed with those children – how gracious and grown up they seem to be, as though they are truly adult children, or child adults. I sense a great deal of inner strength in those kids, the kind of strength that will surely win most of the various inner contests that will come their way in their teen years.

On the way home, we stopped at Panera for a light lunch, and it was a satisfying ending to a sweet family visit. A family in the large table near us was celebrating Christmas with an exchange of gifts and smiles, and it reminded me, again, of the good fortune of having a loving family. For sure, not everyone is that fortunate.

I love this message (and the artwork) …

Below, our chalkboard poem for today …

Friday, December 20, 2019

9:24 a.m. Today, I want to keep in mind the wonderful phrase from the Christmas story that “the glory of the Lord shone round about” the shepherds. “The Lord”, to me, is simply the endless Universe itself, or just Reality itself, or Life itself, all beginning with upper-case letters to suggest their being beyond boundaries and measurement. Many years ago, I gave up believing that there is a “God” somewhere up in the clouds who makes rules and gives punishments. Now, I understand that God, or the Universe, or Reality, or Life, is a boundless presence and force of which all people, animals, rocks, rivers, skies etc. are an inseparable part, and it is that presence and force, or Presence and Force, which was the “glory … [that] shone round about” the shepherds on the first Christmas night. And, amazingly, it’s the same Presence and Force that constantly shines around me and everything else today.

My hope for today is that I can feel that immeasurable Presence and Force every single moment, because it’s right here and right now, always and forever.

7:36 p.m. I had a good full-body workout at the YMCA today, moving from weight machine to weight machine to simple pushups to knee bends to quick workouts on a treadmill and rowing machine. I’ve been doing this type of exercise for the last week or so, and it’s been very enjoyable – and I think very good for me.