Morning walk, Honduran village

January 3, 2009

Morning walk, Honduran village

 

Hand carved wooden yokes

adorn the broad, muscled necks

of tan oxen pairs

 

plowing the cornfields

that surround red-tile roofed homes

of small villages

 

with houses linked

wall to wall, lining

narrow, unpaved streets

 

where dogs, pigs, horses

and barefoot small children

share the tight space

 

with oxen duos

on their way out to plow

as my friend and I

 

press ourselves against

the wall so they can pass,

heading for their fields.

 

Three-quarter sized horses

carrying round bundles of

smallish round firewood

 

also share our space

as the two of us enjoy

the bright fall morning.

 

 

Ubiquitous sharp tools

January 3, 2009

Ubiquitous sharp tools

 

They hang from men’s waists,

ubiquitous as businessmen’s fountain pens,

or women’s purses.

 

Older, horse-mounted guys

we pass along the one paved highway

in the Department of Olancho,

the one from Tegucigalpa to Juticalpa,

have more decorated scabbards for them.

 

Other men trim grass and brush at the roadside with theirs.

Two guys at the Honduran bishops’ modest building,

used for their infrequent meetings as a bishops’ conference,

use not lawnmowers but machetes to trim the grass and weeds.

 

Among the rural villages of central Honduras,

I’m sure a man would feel as naked without his machete

as I do when I find myself without my smartphone.

 

 

Twice gifted

Twice Gifted

July 5, 2012

 

DNA from two bloodlines;

joined family cultures that may differ

more than the alleles from each.

Our first big choice made for us

No personal say, no do-overs,

we might as well have no regrets.

What’s done is done.

 

But still and all

the other choices

are left to us

 

We have the life;

we are a new amalgam

a new beginning for humankind.

 

 

It’s as though Adam and Eve had come together for us,

brought us forth and lifted us up to God,

physically and figuratively offering us up,

their gift to the future of the race.

 

Whether our own parents did this

or not, does not, in the long term, matter.

 

We each are lifted and gifted.

The One who has loved us well before

our first two cells were joined,

long before our bodies first touched air,

and air exited our lungs as a cry of life

still offers himself to us.

 

Our crucial choice is to accept God’s gift to us.

If we do, we allow him to do

what may or may not have been done in infancy.

 

Finding God’s offer of adoption;

accepting his gift of a new birth,

allows him to put aright the long and tiring list

of things done and undone, to wipe clean the slate.

 

Blood shed while hanging from a tree,

meant as a sign of ignominity,

creates a womb for all who will believe.

 

And we, accepting this new place of warmth

and comfort and re-creation,

become ourselves a new iteration;

through a time of protected growth,

of learning a new family story;

a new culture of life and love and mutual nurturing,

through learning reliance on our new family’s story,

our new family’s culture,

accepting a new nature,

receiving love so unlimited we can’t comprehend it,

assenting to obedience to higher laws,

adapting ourselves to a way of life

in which offering ourselves to those in need

of word and bread and health and love,

are as natural and essential as breathing, drinking, and eating,

as we ourselves, splitting cell by splitting cell

achieve a new birth, having accepted our unseen, all-loving parent,

our new Father; our new Brother whose blood was spilled

that we might be joined to his Father, our Father;

a new Spirit, poured out upon all who accept this rebirth;

a new mother, once given to the one known as the beloved disciple,

and by extension to us all.

 

Our new and forever Father’s outreached hand

offers a life unlike a fairy tale’s fiction

Its title and final pages carry only two words, and entirely new diction;

Alpha replacing page one; Omega extending untattered to the end.

Living happily ever after in our eternal Family, the end of the matter.

 

 

“A rabbit walks into a jar with a jellyfish…”

May 25, 2013

“A rabbit walks into a jar with a jellyfish…”

 

They say that with God all things are possible,

but so seldom do we get examples.

So I’ll offer a few.

 

How does a speck of a flea

jump so many times its own height,

with legs so tiny,

circulation of bodily fluids

flowing through vessels infinitesimally small?

 

How was I able to weave through a field of jellyfish,

spaced at varying levels, all around me,

like a minefield of pink volleyballs

in the Gulf of Mexico’s salty waters,

as I bounced on my toes

doing my feeble best

to avoid contact with their stinging tentacles

but lacking ballet skills

and still emerge unscathed?

 

How can a mother rabbit on shore

know that her babies are being harmed

on a boat in the middle of a lake

and become (unexplainably) distressed?

 

How was it possible for my Ford pickup

to skid down an ice coated hill sideways

at 20 miles per hour

to within 30 feet

of the middle of a row of five cars

and suddenly pull to the end of the row,

turn 90 degrees to its left

and slow to a stop, exactly in its lane,

just short of the line

marking the edge of the intersection?

 

Perhaps its possible to begin to offer an answer

to some of these ponderings

with the words, “life began when a unicellular being

first captured the spark of life

in its complex combination of chemicals

and began to replicate itself.”

 

But the futile silliness of answering such ponderings

with elementary evolutionary principals

is vastly inferior to simply leaving our ponderings

to our wonderings to carry along with us in our wanderings.

 

 

Will it ping?

March 26, 2012

Will It ping?

 

I sent an e-mail into the past today,

not knowing if the message sent

to the correctly formatted address

would arrive at an active account

or be forwarded to a more ethereal destination.

 

The last e-mail I received from my elderly friend

whose health, even then, teetered

on the brink of eternity,

had been sent six years backwards.

 

Born in Poland, as a young girl,

she and her family

escaped the encroaching Nazis by sea,

Into her 70s, she could recount

the details of the passage;

describe the other passengers

on the freighter,

all of them refugees from

the heartless onslaught.

 

And she would recount happy stories, as well.

One involved a perfect evening

of food and wine with a couple of her fellow college students,

a priest, and one of their professors,

a night of conviviality and shared conversation

in Spain on holiday as a twenty-something,

like a scene from a movie that lived in her memory

and came alive again on the pages

of the newspaper I edited.

 

Life was the substance of my friend,

and she knew the substantial blessings

of her earthly existence — and celebrated them,

referenced to her Catholic faith.

 

Having lived well and faithfully,

I am confident that she,

if no longer reachable at

the electronic address she last used,

is now comfortable in the arms of her Creator,

sharing the wine that lasts forever,

present to the Father, convivial

being the operative word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes

April 30, 2013

Heroes

 

I headed for bed, discouraged,

the frequency of the clicking in my titanium hip

was increasing by the day.

It had been the prelude my left hip’s post surgical displacement

only two weeks earlier,

my spirits dragged the hardwood floor

between the living room and the bedroom.

 

Then her name came to me.

Wilma Rudolph, Olympic champion,

born a sickly kid, hit by polio,

growing up in the segregated South,

with physical therapy and dogged determination,

she’d become a world class runner;

taken home three gold medals

from the1960 Olympics.

 

And what about those two bicycle mechanics?

Think how silly Wilbur and Orville must have seemed,

building a one-rail track into the sand

of Kitty Hawk there on the Outer Banks beach,

having had to persevere through repeated failures,

partial successes, and trips back and forth

to their Ohio bike shop during winters between beach runs,

before their meager but historic 12 seconds

of internal combustion powered flying in sight of the Atlantic.

 

My attention is drawn to a thick paperback programmed book

stacked in with other books on a shelf across the bedroom,

its pinkish binding, reminding me of my poor punctuation skills

and Dr. Starr’s encouragement to improve them.

I recalled my obsessive use of that book,

with the answers hidden by a cardboard strip

as I moved along the edge of the page,

page after page after page,

chapter after chapter after chapter

until I’d transformed that weakness into a strength.

 

Physical therapy pursued with an obsessive persistence.

Determination to do some hiking in the Rockies this summer.

I think, with the grace of God, things are gonna turn out fine.

 

Note:

The walk in Rocky Mountain National Park in late June, was about three or four miles above 8,000 feet. I had regained mobility by that point and lost the clicking, as physical therapy paid off.

One pressed flower

April 11, 2013

One pressed flower

 

In the next room

pressed between the pages of a small

(four inches on a side)

journal, is pressed,

one small lilac-colored flower.

 

My dad was 16 when my mom

brought it to him,

a loving gesture of a nascent romance

she’d brought  him

because he hadn’t shown up at church.

Knowing he must have been ill,

she’d picked it on her way to his house

there in what was then the rough hewn,

wide open, dirt or, depending on the weather,

mud-streeted West Texas oilfield town of Abilene.

 

They were married nearly 65 years.

The flower would have been picked

about 84 years ago.

 

Like the flower,

their love never faded

 

On her 80th birthday,

my dad gave my mom a complete set

of decorative items

for the bathroom.

 

I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but it was:

a cover for a tissue box, a deep pile bathroom rug,

a ceramic lotion dispenser,

all of which bore one common trait.

They were all painted or dyed or otherwise had the color lilac

imbued into their substance.

 

I think by the time my dad died at nearly 92

the best part of his soul

was of a certain hue.

I wouldn’t doubt that the next time he saw his former sweetheart,

he was bearing not one, but a hand-filling bouquet

of lilac colored wildflowers.

 

Sandstone — when the rocks move in place

May 6, 2013

Sandstone — when the rocks move in place

 

Sandstone in layers,

sparkling with the reds of hematite and quartz crystals,

perhaps a bit of gypsum to lighten the colors,

have surrounded me for much of my life.

 

I live in a house surfaced by stones

of ochre, red-brown, iron red, and tan.

 

When I was a Boy Scout camping in Palo Pinto County,

I was surrounded by red-hued sandstone rocks and cliffs.

The stone on my house and the stone that surrounded me at 15

both bear the name of the county — Palo Pinto sandstone.

 

When I got lost overnight in the Caprock Canyons up toward the Panhandle,

the canyons were topped with a layer of 15 feet or so of limestone,

but the canyons dug out by the headwaters of the Red River,

its creeks and streams layered the deeper red of these landforms

into a riverbed that will one day be sandstone once again,

indicating the plastic nature of all this rock.

 

Theories of how banding occurs in this gritty, seemingly solid stuff

talk about the flow of the hematite’s reddish chemicals within the rock

in concentric shapes — nearly squares, nearly circles — their outlines developed

layer on layer, extending from their invariably lighter centers.

 

Darker colors surrounding lighter colors,

not trapping them, framing them.

 

I’ve been surrounded by these stones,

with their patterns of dark and light all my life.

They seem not to change, but their permeability

goes so far beyond our understanding of solids and liquids,

their processes of formation, liquefaction, and solidification

extend over periods of time that dwarf our own life spans.

 

What patterns of dark and light do we carry with us,

deposit, make liquid, move about so that what comes after us

looks – and is – different from what came before us?

 

 

First or last of thousand falls

December 4, 2000

First or last of thousand falls

 

This fall that brings us

burning bushes all about,

this millennial fall,

 

whether first of new

or last of old, thousand

years in a long line,

 

will be remembered

for ending our longest drought

with flood of color.

 

Bright, flaming bushes,

trees of every fire-bright hue,

woods of lantern trees.

 

Even when the mists

and fogs of late fall subdue,

they cannot obscure,

 

but only add layer

of mystery and romance

to festive fall dance

 

of unparalleled

variety and brightness,

orange, red, yellow,

 

plum, pink, and purple,

greens to contrast with them all.

Splendored, prism fall.