Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A poem for today …

ON HER LIST (about Sharon Z., 82, Blessings, CT)

He asked her

what was on her list today,

and she said

she would wash the clothes,

and then watch winter

washing the hours with snow,

and then watch her life

washing itself so it shined

like the astonishing stars,

and then she would wonder

at the wonder of the next sixty seconds

as they are washed and re-washed

by something spread out endlessly around her,

and that’s about it,

she said.

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And the fridge magnetic poem for today …

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UNNOTICED ABUNDANCE (written in the summer, 7 years ago)

            I wonder how much everyday abundance I fail to notice, the way I sometimes absentmindedly pass by the roses overflowing our trellis these days. In my busy comings and goings, I usually don’t stop to appreciate the many dozens of pink blossoms spilling over the bars of the trellis, just as I’m sure I heedlessly disregard simple but beautiful lavishness in other places. Stone fences, for instance, are plentiful all along the roads near our house – hundreds of thousands of stones selected for their perfect shapes and shades of gray, and set in place by practiced artisans. It’s a lovely bountifulness of natural fencing, but one that I usually pass with hardly a glance. And what about the layers and layers of leaves that are overflowing in trees at this luxurious time of year? Great clouds of leaves softly waver above me, but when do I ever truly notice them, study them, be thankful for them? Above the leaves, too, are sometimes bounteous tiers of clouds that seem to puff their way across the sky, but when was the last time I really noticed their lushness?  When was the last time I really looked at clouds in all their graceful profusion? This world is a place of pure abundance, and I guess, at 71, it’s time I started seriously noticing it.

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Below, ‘ordinary’ trees, house, and stones …

We passed this ‘ordinary’ scene today on a walk, but this time, I noticed the beauty,

Monday, February 24, 2020


            An old church hymn asks for “a grateful heart that loves and blesses all”, and this morning I’m giving some thought to the word “all”. The hymn doesn’t say “blesses some”, or “blesses the good things that happen”, or “blesses people who act the way I think they should act”. It says “all”, as in everything that happens, everything that comes my way – the pleasant and the unpleasant, the advantageous and the seemingly useless, the triumphs and the trouncings. The hymn suggests that every aspect of my life should  somehow be honored. I should, in some way or other, bless everything that happens. As Shakespeare reminds us, blessings (he uses the word “mercy”)  should not be “strained”, but should be shared the way “the gentle rain of heaven” falls upon the earth — indiscriminately, unconditionally, thoroughly. Rain falls on the bad and the beautiful, and so should my gratitude.

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Today, I discovered two wonderful truths: it’s pretty easy to wash our windows, and sitting in a cemetery overlooking a river (especially when it’s five minutes from our house) can be a serious blessing.

It occurred to me this morning, like a butterfly of a thought floating along, that maybe I should wash the windows in the sunroom. So, consenting to the butterfly, I found the washing solution and some rags, and proceeded to wash windows for about 30 minutes. That’s all it took – a few minutes of swishing and swashing and spraying and wiping, and shazam! the windows were clean and clear and the outdoors never looked better.

Later, when our handyman was doing some work in several rooms of the house, I drove out to go to the library for some quiet reading, but swung in to Elm Grove Cemetery, just a few blocks from the house, and found precisely the peace and stillness I was seeking. I drove quietly along the dirt paths and found several places to park in the shade and see views of the cemetery’s stately trees, the sparkling Mystic River, and the low hills beyond. I sat there in the car for well over an hour, with windows open on this almost balmy day, just reading, writing, thinking, and smiling.

Below … two views from the car, and a selfie while sitting on a bench …


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Yesterday morning, we participated in an inspiring discussion at the Quaker meeting house on the topic of discernment and truth. I found the thoughts shared to be fresh and uplifting. As the minutes passed, I felt more and more lucky to be there. We were just a small group of modest folk, but I found the words shared in that small room to be abundant with clear-sightedness. I felt wisdom shining in its straightforward, special way. I’ll bet that quiet basement room has seen that kind of simple wisdom countless times since it was built in the 1800’s.

The Westerly Quaker Meeting House

On any given day, my thoughts are usually as gossamer and scattered as the dusting of snow across Mystic some winter mornings, and that’s exactly what I love most about them. I feel fortunate that my thoughts are, in a way, as insubstantial as the snowflakes that float down on us some mornings. Even worrisome thoughts seem to harmlessly scatter through my mind like ramshackle ghosts, and, if I let them, they disappear just as easily as do most wispy sheets of morning snow. When I step back and simply observe my thoughts, I see that they are actually flimsy specks that fling themselves around in fairly disorderly ways. It’s like they’re having fun, these sometimes bothersome but always free-spirited thoughts that dance around inside me, and I often have fun observing them in their escapades. Like snowflakes, even the most fearful thoughts sooner or later – if I let them – settle to a stop, sometimes on a computer screen in curious rows called sentences.

Below is a magnetic poem in a form called ‘cinquain’: 5 lines, with 2,4,6,8, and 2 syllables – done in response to grandson Louie’s brilliant cinquain, which is below it.

And here is Louie’s cinquain:

Sea shore 

Water flowing

Blue waves are crashing through 

Surfer glides through air like frisbee 


Friday, February 21, 2020

We took a 2 1/2 mile walk this morning in 17 degree weather, through Wilcox Park and then up and down the quaint streets of old Westerly. I wasn’t dressed quite perfectly for the cold – my head felt almost frozen for most of the way – but I pushed on, inspired by my spirited and obviously delighted Delycia. She pranced along as though she could think of nothing she would rather be doing right then, which was probably true. When she does something – anything – she does it with unreserved enthusiasm. I felt like a very lucky walker, as you can see by the picture below.

TWO DEAR FRIENDS, out for a winter walk

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

     I love sitting at my desk and occasionally watching the wind sway and bend the limbs of the trees outside. It reminds me of maybe the most important truth I need to remember – that a power infinitely more vast and influential than me is always at work, even in strife and sorrow and disaster, to sway and bend all of life precisely the way it should go. The trees can teach me an essential lesson – that letting go and letting grander powers do their certain and necessary work is the only way to win the rewards of absolute peace and assurance. I’m sure the trees only grow stronger as they surrender to the working of the winds – as they allow their limbs to flexibly flow in countless ways – and I’m sure I will grow stronger as I grow accustomed to willingly accepting, without hesitation, what each present moment entrusts me with, for it is always, I know, a gift full of surprising powers.

our neighbor’s trees growing and learning by accepting the wind’s gifts


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Yesterday and today, we have had two fine, freezing walks in Elm Grove Cemetery. The place is fairly deserted on these cold days, and it gives us a feeling of freedom as we briskly pace ourselves along the pathways. I love the views of the river and hills in the distance, and the stately trees of the cemetery, and even the silent sticks and old leaves around the gravestones. We set off from the car on our own separate, private walks, and sometimes I spot Delycia in the distance, striding along in peaceful silence.

Three scenes from the cemetery walk …

Frozen Freshness

Monday, February 17, 2020

Yesterday, we walked about two miles on Napatree Beach in seriously wintry weather – 27 degrees and high winds whipping around us. We were bundled up and stayed fairly silent, since we needed all our concentration to keep us on course to Napatree Point and back. At several points I thought, “What are we old folks doing out here in this crazy weather?”, but then I quickly corrected myself. This wind and cold, I said, is young, just born this morning, or even just this minute. Who can find where a wind starts, or how old a wind is, and who can say when the frozen air on our skin was born? We wouldn’t think of saying the wind or the 27 degree temperature is ‘old’, so why do I apply that term to myself? In truth, and in countless ways, my life, like winds and freezing cold, is reborn every moment. I am as new, always, as the icy sunshine on the sand and the frost I felt on my face yesterday. I sometimes say I’m old only because I lose sight of the sparkle and inventiveness of each moment. There was freshness in the frozen wind on the beach yesterday, and there was freshness – and youth – in Delycia and I as we walked – maybe danced – along the shore. 


Two magnetic poems on our fridge today …

Friday, February 14, 2015

All the sunrises we’ve witnessed in these three weeks on Sanibel Island have been spectacular, but I might select this morning’s as the finest of all. Somehow, the soft mist and haze and sheets of translucent clouds helped the first light flow out in dazzling displays.


And here’s a lady who truly loves sunrises ….

… and here she is with a very lucky dude!


We took a 4-mile beach walk this morning while the sunshine was rising and spreading through the mist, and, now and then, I silently read this poem as we walked.


On our walk, we saw a strange creature resting on the sand…

and a truly amazing sand sculpture for Valentine’s Day …


On our last evening on Sanibel, we felt fortunate to be present at an informal bluegrass songfest, out on the beach as the sun was setting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The sunrise beachwalk today was, as always, an inspiring experience. To be walking together in the very first light of day, when darkness is spread more evenly than sunshine, and when only a few other walkers are out, and when, as this morning, a soft mist covers the sea and the distant shores, is almost a sacred experience, almost a time of worship. I think we both feel, on those early walks along the shore, like we are very close to the center of what this life is really all about. Maybe that’s why we often walk in silence. The mystery of dawn on a beautiful beach is beyond words.

… one of hundreds of hand-holding elderly couples we have seen walking on the beach …
… and another …
…and here’s an elderly and happy mediator, getting in touch with ‘now’ …