I am old, and feeling lucky to be so, and liking it a lot. The word “old” is related to a Greek word meaning “to strengthen”, and I think old folks like me are sometimes stronger than in our younger days – not physically stronger, but stronger in our hearts and minds, better able to be brave in a sometimes ominous world. My biceps have broken down considerably, but my sense of dignity and self-respect is stronger than ever. My lungs don’t lift and fall as smoothly as they used to, but my ability to be both audacious and serene has improved each year. The word “old” is related to the Latin word “altus”, meaning “high”, and I guess I’m proud to have reached the heights of old age, the peaks of seniorhood, the summits of advanced years, from where I can look out and see how lucky I am to be standing strong, high up and happy, old and getting older – and more grateful – each day. 

These lovely irises are also standing strong, high up and happy,

but their blossoms are only a few days old. They have the dignity of youthfulness, the majesty of springtime, and seeing them today showed me, again, how I want to live at age 78 – with the grandeur, poise, and gravitas of newly-blossomed irises.

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In Honor, Ohio, there’s dignity 
even in days of rain, since raindrops there 
are renowned for their splendor.  
Even cold, gray days have grandeur, 
and citizens sincerely praise 
the bitterest weather, since it’s simply 
another wonder made by the illustrious universe 
they love so much. In Honor, 
there’s honor in every moment, 
so much so that people shake a lot 
over the stunning majesty of almost all things. 
They see prestige in success,
but also in failure, since the light
of graciousness often arises 
from the darkness of disappointment. 
Visitors are usually amazed 
by the magnificence 
of ordinary things in Honor 
– the triumphs of small birds, 
the sublimity of streets.  

Mist and Masks

Delycia and I took a quick (2.5 mile) morning walk around the seacoast town of Noank (CT) this morning, and we had the mysteries of mist all around as we walked. It’s always wonderful to realize that seeing boats and the sea somewhat hidden in mist surprisingly makes them seem even more exquisite, more magnificent than when seen in clear light. It is, indeed, a spooky but very pleasant power that mist has.

And masks, too, can sometimes bring out a curious shine in faces, especially valiant elderly travelers out scouting the morning mist.

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Mist on a May afternoon
can find the truth for you. 
If yelling at yourself 
and sending disagreement out
like shots from guns
has brought you
to a house of horror, 
try making friends with mist 
when May has found you 
with its helpfulness
and its family-like mist. 
This affectionate, friendly haze 
will call you
by your real name. 
Out of nowhere, 
the missing you 
might finally arrive 
through the pathway
of this 
springtime mist.

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One Tuesday in September, 
a man named Harold Smith 
said to the clerk 
at the Social Security office 
that he wished to change his name 
to Harold Hidden, 
simply because 
he suddenly saw so many marvels 
hidden inside
every single moment. 
He said he now saw sadness 
secreted far down inside 
stormy words,
and friendship was camouflaged 
deep down in almost everything. 
He told the clerk,
whose name was Carl, 
that he knew peace 
was working undercover everywhere, 
always ready to shine its light.
He said love was sometimes disguised
in the form of anger, 
and wisdom was occasionally masked 
as sorrow. 
“So Carl, can this new name happen for me?”
he asked, 
and Carl coughed,
and then smiled 
like he suddenly understood something.  

Never Alone


            Like most of us, I have spent a significant amount of time concerned about my safety and security, but sometimes it comes to me with clarity that this infinite and friendly universe has me – and this solitary bird I saw this morning upon a lamppost beside the Mystic River – in its very good hands.

The truth is that I, and this bird, are not separate and solitary, but essential and sheltered parts of a single everlasting force, sometimes called God, the Tao, or just the Universe – a force that is always doing what is absolutely perfect for itself. If I close my eyes, I can see my life as a waft in a wind that never started and will never stop, or a wave in an endless ocean. How can this waft or this wave possibly be harmed? They can change, certainly – every atom in this universe is constantly changing – but instead of fearing these changes, I should try to appreciate them. This astonishing universe takes good care of uncountable atoms and cells and particles, forever and ever, and it will take good care of the particles called ‘bird on a lamppost’ and ‘Hamilton Salsich’. 

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Sharon Z., 82, Blessings, CT

For 60 years, she thought she was alone,
a single worker in a factory called ‘life’, 
but then one stirring summer day
she realized she is never alone. 
She saw that she has always lived within
an endless, friendly, ever-moving sea,
where she is simply waves and ripples as
they freely flow and glide without an end.  
A wave is always loose and ready 
to roll down or rise, and ripples flow the way
its sea prefers, which makes her smile
to see that life is truly effortless. 
She sees that boundaries do not exist,
that partnerships are free and everywhere,
that harmony maneuvers all of life.
She calls herself a very happy wave,
and loves the faithful rippling of life.  

And, for sure, Delycia’s beautiful flowers are never alone …



Thanks to a good friend, who arranged it through her work, I had the privilege of writing a weekly letter to a young prisoner during the month of May. I felt truly honored to be able to do this. The letters are below.

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           Several years ago,  Delycia and I saw the movie “The Book Thief”, and, in the midst of our sighs and silent tears, I think we both saw something very special in this film. I was particularly struck by this phrase, said by one of the characters: “Words are life.” I thought, yes, words are life — and love and goodness and strength and everything else. Words work wonders every hour, every moment, all across the earth. Words start all friendships, and all fights. Without words, there would be neither love affairs nor wars. Words are like diamonds and bombs, like coats to keeps us warm and ropes to whip us with. In a great book, it says that in the beginning was the word, meaning, maybe, that at the start of everything, words wait with their mighty power. In the film, Liesel Meminger understands this, and therefore steals books in order to come into contact with this power. She touches her books like they’re time bombs of inspiration and wisdom, which, for those of us who love them, they are. 

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To sit with stillness with the night outside
is one way to observe the deep and wide 
empire of kindness in this puzzling world.
Mankind seems sometimes gone off track and swirled
with disarray, but kindness keeps its silent law. 
The gentleness of simple love will draw
the worst of hatred toward a place of peace,
and gentle words can make an uproar cease,
like evening softly ends the noise of day,
and kindness, life’s beloved king, holds sway. 



Over the years, it has occasionally seemed that I simply couldn’t handle any more difficulties, almost as though my life was a somewhat small room that could contain only so many troubles. I’m not sure where that thought came from – that belief that my inner spirit is a compact and cramped place – but as the years have passed, I have come to see it as far from the truth. My inner spirit, my “heart and soul”, like all of ours, is vast beyond measure. There are no walls to someone’s inner being, no boundaries to a person’s thoughts and feelings and vivacity and passion. The inner spirit that all of us have can spread itself out across infinite distances inside us. When we passed this view of farm land and distant hills on our 10-mile bike ride this morning,

I thought of the endless room inside all of us, enough to hold vast distances of compassion and patience and love and lightheartedness. There’s boundless space in our hearts and souls, both for all the blessings of life and for all its countless disappointments. As difficulties arise in my life, I simply need to say, as I do when success shows up, “Come on in. There’s plenty of room.”  

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Outside his window 
the wide world is growing
and getting more wonderful. 
It does this all the time, 
taking its sweet time 
to show how it makes miracles 
even while he’s sitting silently 
with a cup of tea. 
Talking to the world 
is easy 
when it's so wide open 
in front of him 
as he sips 
and silently speaks 
so his thoughts 
softly throw themselves 
across the everlasting distances 
of this world 
into which he somehow came ashore
back in 1941.


Watching and Studying


     “Watch your step” would be a useful slogan for me. I especially like the word “watch” because it suggests the kind of completely committed awareness I want to foster in myself – an awareness that sometimes, sadly, seems absent in me for hours and days at a time. I want to be constantly on the alert, attentive as much as possible to the nuances of this oddly beguiling life I’m living. I want to watch what’s happening as carefully as a sharp-eyed sailor watches from the deck. This is a demanding mission for me, since a youthful heedlessness still seems more prevalent in me than awareness. I still sometimes see in myself the rash madness of my teenage years. I come panting into a new day, dash through it, and then rush into sleep at the end, hoping that a few hours rest will help me race even faster tomorrow. It’s an especially swift and hassled world we live in these days, hardly the kind of setting to support “watching your step”, but I do want to give it a good try. Instead of simply glancing at the gifts May is giving us along the roads these days, I want to occasionally stop and study them. Instead of quick looks, I want long looks. Instead of briskly passing by the songs of birds on a walk, I want to truly listen, to sometimes let my feet come to a silent stop among their beautiful songs. Instead of passing this lovely section of Delycia’s garden with hardly a glance,

I want to stop and actually study it for a few moments, as I did this morning, noticing the tiny raindrops along the leaves, and the very small white flowers staying almost shyly in the background of the beautiful white tulip.

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Grace gives him gifts

every moment,

whether it’s the wind

working among springtime trees,

or a blue sky

that seems to be singing,

or just the feel of his fingers

on the keys of his Mac.

Grace is what

the world gives,

if he just waits

and watches for it.

Even white sunshine

on a white house,

seen in passing,

makes gracefulness

overflow in his already

spilling-over life.

Flowers and Problems

When things seem stirred up in my life, sometimes all I have to do is see more clearly. I’ve found that if I can simply notice the usually unnoticed things around me, life feels lighter and more leisurely. If, for instance, I take some time to tour Delycia’s garden on an abundant day in May and actually see the assorted shades of the blossoms, actually notice the slight shifting of the flowers in the faintest winds, I almost always come away with a quieter feeling about life. Problems seem simpler after I’ve studied the colors of clouds for a few seconds, or seen the different ways two houses shine in the sunlight, or observed the movement among millions of leaves in windy trees. Even taking the time to notice the way a window shows the shades of early morning light might make a day seem absolutely effortless, its potential problems utterly powerless and easy to solve. 

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AFTER 61 (Harrison P., 61, Blessings, CT)

Shortly after his 61st birthday, 

he found himself standing beneath wisdom

that rolled like a thousand thunders.

Something made him feel 

the strength of youth, 

like he was thirteen again

and could do anything, 

even arithmetic,

and could show sympathy to everything, 

even thunderclouds. 

He found himself laughing 

with the misfortunes of his life 

as though they were playful dolphins 

from a fairy tale. 

He challenged his rascally problems 

to games like Chinese checkers, 

and he always won.

He felt like a chimpanzee

swinging beneath beautiful wisdom trees

in his happy 60’s,

and he always chose 

childish thoughts. 

Bikes, Peaks, and Poems

Friday, May 22, 2020

We took our first real bike ride of the season this morning, a quick 8 miles, and here’s a look at Delycia finishing the second 2-mile stage in a very strong fashion …

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“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific – and all his men

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –

Silent upon a peak in Darien.”

— John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

I’m always hoping to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, staggered by the scene, and I would like to foster more of that kind of bewilderment and wonder in my life. Cortez and his men saw a startling sight, and every day – every moment – I am witness to scenes which, in their own special ways, are just as amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the sometimes wearisome routines of the day, the various circumstances that arise around me are as unique and mystifying as the Pacific Ocean, and really, the only suitable response to them is honest amazement. The life I share with Delycia is my “Darien”, and wherever I happen to be is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the inscrutable magnificence of life. A “surmise” is a guess, a supposition, a hunch, and that’s honestly all I have when it comes to understanding the things I see and experience. In the end, they’re all complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to make clear the mystery of even the simplest circumstance – the look of lamplight on a table, the sound of a car coming past the house, the whole sky shining at 7:00 a.m. — all I could do is make a hit-or-miss guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to stay respectfully silent, like the astonished explorer and his men.

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Our current fridge magnetic poem …



Somewhere in his book in the Bible, Job says that the words of his wise friends are no more significant than “proverbs of ashes”, and it has me thinking, this morning, about the millions of words I spoke to my students, and how, years later, they are something like dust in the limitless universe of learning. I usually saw myself as a fairly sensible and shrewd instructor as I spoke to my students, but now, looking back, my words in the classroom seem like specks of small thoughts in a sky that goes on forever. The supposedly smart sentences I spoke in class and the lessons I set forth with self-assurance are now simply infinitesimal waves in the endless ocean of my students’ education. Strangely, this is not a sad thought for me, but an inspiring one, for it reminds me of the immensity and majesty of the teaching-and-learning process that I was lucky to be part of for 45 years. I was just one of the countless teachers my students had, including their families and friends and the books they read and the people they spoke to in passing and the sights they saw and all the words they listened to in their young but limitless lives. Their teachers were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and my spoken words just happened to be among them, just happened to float through their rising lives for a few months and then drift off like dust in the vast winds of learning. I feel blessed to have been even a small part of such a grand and splendid process.

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The hours passed in softened winds

somewhat the way friendship begins

with just some gentle words sent out

like signals. Fellowship will sprout

where there are breezes made of kind

and gracious thoughts, and peace of mind

arrives when friendship blows upon

two lives to make a special dawn.

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We took a very long walk (well, for me, at least) this morning (almost 7 miles), and while there were only slight winds most of the time, we two made a wind of our own with our brisk, well-cadenced strides. Take a look:


Wednesday, May 20

            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”.    

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Whatever is here, as you sit, 

just juggle it all 

like you largely enjoy 

the gymnasium aspect of life. 

You’ll see the edges of events and thoughts 

gracefully change direction 

as you toss them with thorough agility.

You’ll feel encouragement 

from all around you, 

the magical air, 

your ageless breath. 

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Our chalkboard poem for today …

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And … Delycia’s beautifully trimmed garden borders …

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And … a lovely garden pot, sculpted entirely with small round beach stones, seen on our morning walk in Noank …

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And … the first white irises of the season!