A Word Like Light: TEACH

         I was a teacher for 45 years, but now, in my 81st year of life, I’m realizing more and more that I am now, in retirement, the most serious student I have ever been, and luckily, I am being taught by truly master teachers. I call them Mrs. and Mr. Professor Universe, because they were born when the universe was born, and have been teaching for zillions of years. I receive their marvelous instructions every moment of every day. For instance, my professors softly set thoughts in my mind and allow me to use them as I wish, either exploring them, or smiling and waving goodbye and sending them off. My teachers gave me the trees I’m seeing right now outside the window, softly shaking in a breeze, which tutors me about how to take it easy and let life move the way it wishes. Mrs. and Mr. Professor Universe even use music on the radio to show me the eternal rhythms of life, so my days can sing like days always want to do, and these tireless teachers are always training me by sending feelings flowing through me and allowing me to select the ones I wish to follow. Sometimes they even have sorrow instruct me about the necessity for acceptance and openness, and they occasionally assign me some worries to work with, in the hope that I can come to see the wisdom in simply allowing life to shine its lights in its own special ways. 

Each morning I rise with the wish to be a good student in this boundless, inspiring classroom called life, instructed and coached by teachers as old and bright as the stars above.  


This morning, we attended the sangha meditation group at All Souls UUA Church in New London, CT, and it was a peaceful and inspiring experience, as usual. Just to be with friends in silence for 60 minutes is a rare pleasure, and I look forward to it each week. After the sangha, we walked with the group to the Washington Street Coffee House, where we had good conversation and – for Delycia and me – tasty cups of herbal tea. Then, after breakfast, we said goodbye to our friends and drove to Bluff Point Nature Preserve, where we enjoyed a brisk and windy 3-mile walk beside the Poquonock Estuary.


Sunday, October 3, 2021


            Five mornings each week, a yellow school bus picks up the children in our neighborhood, and seven days each week, an invisible school bus picks me up and carries me off to the wonderful school called ‘Life’. All day – every hour, every moment – I am a student in an educational institution that has no walls or doors, and in which the teachers are everywhere – in every place, every occurrence, and every thing. Today, I will be attending – and am attending right now as I type these words – an academy of the highest prestige, a college that costs nothing and is staffed by exceedingly learned teachers. My professors will be all the magical moments of the day (which is every moment) and I will have the honor of simply watching and listening and learning. But it won’t be easy to be a good student. It will take determination and self-discipline and concentration, moment after moment. I find that I get easily bored in the school of everyday life, when so many moments seem humdrum and tedious, but right in those very moments, life is ready to teach me marvelous lessons, if only I would stay ready and willing to learn. The simplest experiences – seeing sparrows swooping around the yard, hearing cars smoothly moving past our house, feeling my lungs rise and fall – can be teachers of the highest kind. I can learn valuable lessons today from the way winds pass through trees, the way spoken words work miracles,  the way light from a little lamp brightens a whole room.  The local school bus comes along our street around 8:30 each morning, but the bus of my everyday school has already picked me up, and it’s only 5:16 a.m. I’m off on an educational adventure for the next 16 waking hours. I hope I get good grades from my wonderful teachers!

(from an application)

"The more I studied, the more I 
understood the stars in their homes, 
and the winds that sing across roads. 
I watched the wings of birds, the 
running rivers, the clouds like friends 
together, and the brave brotherhood 
of trees. I heard the hearts of books 
beating, listened to the voices of 
pencils, and studied the conversations 
of computer keys. I attended the school 
of tears, the summer camp of friendship, 
and the college of chaos and love. The 
sunrise showed me wisdom, and all the 
bends in all the roads were my teachers. 
I turned the pages of silence each day. 
My grades were set in the sky at night."   


Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Nothing is more resourceful than this universe into which I was warmly welcomed 79 years ago. Everything about it is ambitious – stars in the sky trying to be the best stars, curtains ruffling breezes in enthusiastic ways, pretzels sitting in a dish with eagerness to please. Every single moment has the zest and sparkle of fountains – if only I could open my eyes and heart to notice it! Today will be a bright and talented teacher, quick-witted and vigorous, and capable of blessing me in millions of ways. Once again, I realize how lucky I am!

Philip M., 89, Blessings, CT

He loves the abilities shown 
in the breaking up of clouds, 
and in the comings and goings 
of gifted breezes.
He believes he belongs 
to these abilities, 
that he’s a part of the expertise 
of sunrises and the talented trees
that shake and frisk for him. 
He praises the powers 
of his hands 
that can come together 
in camaraderie,
and can dance at his side 
as he walks 
and wonders 
at this stunningly skillful world. 


Tuesday, August 17, 2021


            Sometimes small things don’t seem to work in our house, which actually gives me the opportunity to stand back and see, again, that the whole world always works flawlessly, in one way or another. If a window won’t close easily, I could say it’s working very well as one of my teachers, telling me to take my time and stay patient when problems arise. If the flow of water from our well slows while I’m showering, the good news is that it’s flowing more slowly because it’s working in perfect rhythm with the condition of the water table beneath us. If a light switch won’t switch on, it’s possibly working quite nicely as a reminder to me to stay serene and let small problems pass by like the breezes that are blowing outside this morning, making trees sway in the most perfect ways.    


This poem isn't sure what it wants to do.
It has wings, 
but they're just made of words
on a silver screen. 
It has the feet of dancers and racers,
but whispering is what it loves to do. 
It was born in the morning, 
but may bring its best gifts at sunset.
It praises the pulse of life, 
but also screams from its veins and bones. 
It's a small, confused poem
in kids shorts and sneakers, 
poor thing.




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.

+ + + + +


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.

+ + + + +

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: