We see faces; we hear voices

We see a face in the shining visage of the full moon.

It’s not so much a matter of there being a fully developed

set of facial features on its surface to perceive

as it is that we, looking for facial features, find them.

 

It’s what we’ve been doing all our lives.

 

When our parents first held us,

we looked into their eyes;

we recognized features there,

though we had no names for them:

eyes, a nose, a mouth,

set in a roundish, oval.

 

And from that point on,

when we heard a voice or recognized

the form of a human, we looked for that

indicator of their intent,

that source of love and approval

and nurturing

— the face.

 

Many times, I’ve noticed,

especially when my mind is tired,

that staring into seemingly random patterns on walls

on floors, even ceilings, that my brain will form those patterns into faces.

Bearded and bewigged ones, angelic ones;

too many Lincolns, Washingtons, and cherubs to count.

 

But it all links back, ultimately to those first experiences,

when being lifted from crib or cradle, we came quickly to realize

that the best indicator that we were loved

was a smiling, cooing face, searching our own

for signs of a response.

 

I think that’s why the craters and shadows

we perceive on our friendly sallow-faced satellite

most often seem to be smiling back at us.

 

*******

 

Western outdoors adventure writer Craig Childs

tells of an experience deep in a slot canyon

leading into the main basin of the Grand Canyon.

 

He had been wandering interconnected canyons for days,

isolated from human companionship,

when he heard voices ahead, hidden in the folds of the rock.

 

He definitely was drawing closer

and the voices became clearer as he approached.

He could almost make out the words of their

boisterous conversation,

 

He was about to shout a greeting

when he turned a bend and found water flowing over rocks.

 

Like faces from the visual,

we seek to make human conversation

from the auditory.

 

It’s almost enough evidence to make you think

we are deeply, to the core of our souls,

engineered for connection to each other,

to the giving and receiving of love and attention

and mutual validation through our interactions.

 

Perhaps we are all bits of the Trinity,

longing for the give and take of connectedness.

 

Bits of the Trinity longing to share the give and take

of life and love with humanity,

even if we have to create them ourselves.

The purple flash

It’s literally impossible to describe a moment of ecstasy and being swept up into that “at one with the universe” feeling that I experienced yesterday near sunset on the Trinity River. It’s impossible because it has to be experienced. That said, here’s part of what I experienced, set down in words.

 

There’s a phenomenon

that occurs when the sun sets

into the ocean, as you gaze west,

from the level of the water’s surface.

 

It happens in an instant.

For just a second, the light is refracted

and the orange glow of the sun turns green,

thus the name it’s been given:

the green flash.

 

Yesterday I took an outlandishly long walk

from my house to the sturdy wooden benches

set on limestone slabs where a channelized creek

flows into the Trinity River.

 

By the time I arrived,

the sun was moving toward the horizon.

A great blue heron and a great egret

fished the waters below me in the river.

Barn swallows swept past me from the far bank of the creek,

off to one side of the point of the triangle of land high above the river

where I sat in the shade of a hackberry,

its branches on either side me, providing cool shade

and moving gently side to side.

 

I was swept up into a pattern of blessedness,

subsumed into the breeze, the birdsong,

the sight of starlings playing in the river below

and mallards and blue-winged teal dabbling nearby,

when the number of birds in flight nearby seemed to double

and a pair of mallards swept by me,

flying right past the point, just above eye level.

As they did the bright green of the two breeding-plumaged males’ heads

flashed, for only a moment to bright metallic purple,

a slight difference in the refraction patterns of the light:

the purple flash.

“My Creek! My Hills!” (with emphatic emotion, a la Shakespeare’s “Mid-Summer Night’s Dream”)

One poor woman who recklessly referred to the creek as a ditch got the full brunt of my anger at her presumptuous, careless reference. It’s not that I prefer nature and wildlife to people, but failing to acknowledge the value of our natural surroundings, well, that’s just insufferable.

 

I’ve gotten defensive

about the shallow stream

that flows behind

the place where I work.

 

So now every time

someone casually

(or derisively)

refers to it as a ditch,

I inform them

— more or less heatedly,

depending on my mood —

that the ditch is a creek,

that it was here before us and

shaped the low hills

that surround us.

 

Most respond with stunned silence,

and my mini-sermons

are of no purpose, I suppose.

 

But somehow, it makes

me feel I’ve taken on the role

of gamekeeper or naturalist

for these scant few acres

where our building sits,

backed up to this creek,

nestled between

limestone hills

that nurture

fiery fields of

Texas wildflowers

each spring.

 

Land on which

I’ve seen possums, skunks, cottontails,

jackrabbits, raccoons, field mice,

owls, titmice, slate-gray juncos,

skunks, red-tailed hawks,

prairie falcons, and coyotes,

working these rolling hills

that drain into this creek

that’s home to crawdads,

bullfrogs, perch,

and great blue herons.

 

This creek is mine,

and with these words,

I stake my squatter’s claim.

 

 

Mars star

 

Flashing bright colors viewed through binoculars brought the — nominally — red planet closer, made it more appealing,A star in my mind then, and now a planet we’ve sent mobile cameras to, analyzed — in situ — samples from, it’s still just as fascinating,Pulsating planet of red, blue, green, and yellow speaks of my childhood,With binoculars I’d watch its flashing colors,thinking it a star,Now I know better,but even light years closer,it dances — dazzles.

 

Pulsating planet

of red, blue, green, and yellow

speaks of my childhood.

 

With binoculars

I’d watch its flashing colors,

thinking it a star.

 

Now I know better,

but even light years closer,

it dances, dazzles.

 

 

The stars at night shine big and bright…

The stars at night shine big and bright…

 

Who owns the stars, owns all that is.

Nothing that has substance was ever first anything other than the dust of

stars.

 

Was never anything other than the seemingly insubstantial source of light

traveling to our eyes from distances only mathematically conceivable.

 

Even we — our bodies, but not our souls — are made of stardust.

 

As wondrous as that substance is, it holds not a candle

to that other insubstantial entity,

that part of us joined by bonds unbreakable

to the One who made the stars themselves,

 

The One who arranged all those subatomic structures

into this little ball of green and blue, of mountains, seas and grasses,

of forests and fishes and furry things, and gems and minerals,

 

of all things living and otherwise wondrous, as well as the depthless surrounding space.

 

And anyone who owns the stars owns all that is

 

and shares it with all the rest of us.

 

One Starmaker, One Father of us all.

 

 

Eclipse

The holy image

that is every human

reflects its maker.

 

Like the shining moon,

though it cannot be erased,

it can be eclipsed.

 

And oddly enough

it is done by the same means:

The light source is blocked.

 

 

The stars shine big and bright…

I don’t often write and publish so quickly, but I liked this one!

 

Feb. 17, 2014

The stars at night shine big and bright…

 

Who owns the stars, owns all that is

Nothing that has substance was ever first anything

other than the dust of stars …

 

was never anything other than the seemingly insubstantial source of light

traveling to our eyes from distances only mathematically conceivable.

 

Even we, our bodies, but not our souls, are made of stardust.

 

As wondrous as that substance is, it holds not a candle to that other

insubstantial entity, that part of us joined by bonds unbreakable to the One who

made the stars themselves,

 

Who masterminded the rearrangement of all those subatomic structures into this little ball of green and blue, of mountains, seas and grasses,

of forests and fishes and furry things, and gems and minerals, of all things

living and otherwise, wondrous, as well as the depthless surrounding space.

And anyone who owns the stars owns all that is

 

and shares it with all the rest of us.

 

One Starmaker, One Father of us all.

true Spirit

February 21, 2001

true Spirit

by Jeff Hensley

 

The lie of modern thought,

the deepest, darkest of the lies

deceives us into thinking

we are all alone.

 

All our links this lie would break

until at last we lay awake

pondering our fate.

 

Are we doomed to be unknown

dying cold and so alone?

If this is true, then

Christ has died for naught,

the God Man coming down

to leave no greater legacy

than buildings tall, Franciscans brown,

the snarls and gurns of gargoyles found

to laugh the last and soundless sound.

 

But lies are lies

and truth resounds

when unity of life is found,

when atomized illusions drown

within love’s interwoven bounds

of family and mother’s love

of deathless ties, below, above

that worship gives a form.

 

True worship forms its unity

of faith and song

of words and deeds

of sweat and tears and laughter loud,

of mourning and rejoicing and the day-to-day

persisting in the proven way.

The way trod now for centuries,

not blighted by dissembling.

The trail that leads through dust and stars

that calls to hearts from age to age,

that heals the heart’s most grievous scars.

 

Cultural display of Kingdom (Note: set aside large table)

December 6, 2000

Cultural display of Kingdom (Note: set aside large table)

Cultural display

to encompass God’s broad reach

and his great riches

 

would only start with

wine and bread and altar cloth,

candle sticks and such.

But streams and valleys

and stars to light the dark night,

a baby of course,

held by her parents,

held in turn by numberless

bright generations,

herds of animals,

golden grain and red poppies,

minerals, jewels,

golden glow of dawn,

azure skies and thunderstorms,

white of snow and hail,

yes, the Word of God,

not just the book, but with large,

dancing, living words,

 

lively words of God

in ink and flesh and being,

transcending all else,

but binding, weaving them

into undreamed of wholeness

to praise the Creator.

 

 

Quieter than a Mars Rover with dead photo cells

Quieter than a Mars Rover with dead photo cells

 

The atheist’s prayers

have to pierce through the layers of

his own disbelief.

 

But the ears of God

are especially tuned to

his hurting children.

 

With stealth they can catch

and magnify the whispers,

bouncing off barriers.

 

So even those prayers

inaudible to others

are decrypted by him.

No silence so deep

that the heart of God cannot

hear the cries within.

 

Previously published in St. Anthony’s Messenger.