Friday, October 23, 2015

(Matthew 5:43-48)

She always tried to love her enemies,
but this cancer was the strongest one
of all. She said it made her kindness freeze
and all her goodness feel gone and done.

But then she said she came to see that love
could open all its doors to even cancer.
She learned that she could raise her heart above
resentment, that she could be a dancer

with her illness, could be kind to it
and learn to work together with the pain
so anger turns to gentleness. She said she fit
her life to cancer, and soon the rain

of grief became the sunshine of acceptance.
This enemy and she learned how to dance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

"Along the Hudson", oil,
by Takeyce Walter

(a sonnet starting with words from an old hymn)

“My life flows on in endless song”, despite
its twists and turns. In sorrow and in bliss
I hear this stream of singing, and the light
of reassurance sets a silent kiss
upon my life. Inside of sorrow there’s
a melody of wisdom that can lift me
up and help me slowly climb the stairs
toward understanding. I can feel the free
and gentle music of all life. It flows
in sadness and success, in hope and fear,
in kindness and despair. It knows
that harmony can quiet and make clear
the mysteries of life. Beneath all things
a peaceful song flows on with me and sings.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

(A Sonnet on a Busy Morning)

Around our neighborhood, I hear the sounds
of hammers, of equipment being moved, of saws
and shovels. Music of hard work surrounds
our home, and makes me smile because

my neighbors love to do good work. They toil
because they want to make life better than
it was, to get things clean, to turn the soil
so life will grow anew. They have a plan

to polish up their place until it glows
and helps the neighborhood to glow as well.
Their work is made of simple love. It shows
that goodness always will excel

in our good world. These sounds of happiness
I hear are proofs that work with love can bless.



Friday, September 4, 2015

(A Sonnet)

The saying “come to light” describes the world
I know, for this is what I see each day. 
When everything seems shadowy and curled
up in gloom, life always seem to find a way

to move toward light. Our yard comes back at dawn
to meet the morning sun, as though the trees
and flowers know it is their friend. The lawn
leaps up to leave the night and be at ease

again in light. My thoughts, as well, arrive
at light, in time. Unease cannot put out
the glow of peace, and thoughts become alive
beneath the lamp of quietness. Without

the light there is no life. All darkness turns

to light, at last. The candle always burns.     

Thursday, September 3, 2015


(A sonnet while watching the sprinkler)

The garden sprinkler throws the spray across
the flowers with a softness that I love
to see. The spray sets down a silky gloss
among the blooms, a misty wetness from above

them as they sit in sunshine. Then I think
of sprays of words across a page in books
I love. The words like showers splash and sink
into my life, and thoughts start up like brooks

in freshened woods. Then the feel of sprays
of kindness comes to mind – the friendly aid
of clerks, the warmth of passers-by, the praise
received from strangers, just the fresh cascade

of love that’s all around. I feel its spray
of care, a shower on my life all day.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015


"Sunlit Path in Autumn", oil
by Jamie Williams Grossman

A Sonnet for a Coming Change

Some knocking could be heard beyond the fence,
a sound like Autumn wishing to come in.
I wondered why the knocking seemed intense
but also soft, like kisses on the chin.
I soon began to hear some quiet sounds
outside the door of our small house, and saw
September standing there. We strolled the grounds
and met good Summer waiting to withdraw,
and talked of cooler mornings coming, and
the golden leaves, and surely snow before
too long. And then September waved its hand
to Autumn as sweet August locked its door.
Soon I heard a softer knock. A butterfly
had come to wish me well and say goodbye.    

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


"Evening Sun", oil, by Delilah Smith
     Cia and I usually have tranquil, quiet evenings, mostly at home, and it sometimes occurs to me that our  days are actually just like these kindhearted evenings. It’s interesting that the word “evening” comes from the word “even”, which suggests, not the coming of night, but simply smoothness and steadiness, as in “The road ran evenly across the landscape.” Maybe all our days, without our realizing it, actually run evenly along, going where they must in a level and laid-back way. Maybe we just don’t notice the evenness of our days as clearly as we see the easygoing mellowness of our evenings. Perhaps we should look for the relaxed “evening” of each hour in the same way that we look forward to the quiet of our evenings at home. Maybe we can learn to see the “evening” – the smoothing out and leveling of everything – in each daytime moment.      

Sunday, August 30, 2015


  Today I drove on I-95 with the car windows down, something I rarely do, and it was fun, for a change, to feel the outside world roaring in to me as I drove. It was shrill and sometimes almost harsh on my ears, but it was also sort of refreshing, in a funny way. It started me wondering whether I could leave the “windows” of my life open more often, just welcoming in whatever happens to come along. Could I tolerate – and even say a pleasant hello to – all the “noise” that life sends to each of us? With my “windows” – my heart, I guess – wide open, could I learn to let in the bad with the good, and perhaps even find some wisdom and benefit in the bad? Like some of us, I drive – and live – in a fairly closed-up way, but this morning’s free-feeling, open-window trip on the highway showed me the possibilities of living a more unfastened, unenclosed sort of life. It might make for a fun ride.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This morning was a glorious one. Truly, all mornings are probably glorious, but this morning I was actually able to notice the glories. In just a few minutes, I saw sparrows fluttering in their simple splendor around the bird feeders, a shimmering hummingbird whirling its wings at its feeder, old and noble branches bending in the breeze, and sunlight shining on brown shingles. I must admit that I don’t often notice the prestige and magnificence in our backyard, but this morning the glory couldn’t be missed.

Friday, August 28, 2015


      Early this morning, as light was brightening our backyard, the phrase “break of day” came to mind, and it seemed odd that breaking something could bring good results. Here was sunshine suddenly sweeping across the yard, simply because, as we say, the day had “broken”. Usually when something breaks, we think of injury or damage, but when dawn breaks, the brightness of a new day is at hand. It started me thinking of a friend who told me of the grief he suffered because of his divorce, but also of the strange rebirth he experienced. He said the break-up of his marriage brought misery, yes, but it also brought, eventually, a surprising sense of renewal – a resurgence, he said, of youthful feelings he thought were gone forever. He told me that, as the sorrow of the divorce slowly transformed into acceptance and understanding, he sometimes felt like his life was filling with light, helping him see, perhaps for the first time, who he really was. As I thought about him on this sunny morning, it seemed strange that suffering can start a new light shining -- strange that something breaking can bring to light a new kind of life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


     With so much seeming disorder in the world today, it may seem silly to speak of our universe as being “innocent”, and yet, when I manage to step far enough back to get a bigger picture, it truly seem like the universe does no harm, ever. Yes, there are storms and wars and heartrending losses and disasters of astonishing size, and yet the universe seems always able to stay on its steady, 15-billion-year-old course. There are tragedies, but these tragedies, again and again, seem strangely balanced by triumphs. There’s loss after loss, but the losses are always, in due course, succeeded by offsetting gains. Leaves die and fall in autumn, but fresh life always flourishes in the spring. The universe seems to be a purely innocent and smoothly flowing river of compensation, where every wave and swell has its necessary place, and where “good” and “bad” both disappear in an immense and endless harmony.    

Sunday, August 23, 2015


 I suppose like many of us, I grew up with the idea that life is a non-stop skirmish with all kinds of enemies – hostile people, disease, disaster – and it was my task to take on these enemies with the best weapons available. Over the years, I learned to use the swords of self-deception, self-satisfaction, egotism, and a sort of concealed belligerence in wars with these so-called enemies, but in the second half of my life, I came in contact with softer weapons that seemed to work way better. I guess I learned some lessons from watching water – how its softness is what makes its astonishing strength. Water is so easy-going and graceful, and yet so forceful. It effortlessly accepts whatever falls into it, and yet is strong enough to support ships of enormous size. Slowly, my weapons -- most of them, anyway --  have turned into water’s kind of softness, into light and mild qualities like gentleness and acceptance. I’ve found that calmness and hospitality can sometimes disarm the scariest enemies. In a good way, I guess I’ve grown soft with age. Learning from water, my best weapon is now a sincere welcome to whatever happens. In softness I’m finding victories.

Friday, August 21, 2015


 I’ve occasionally said to my wife, “I’m going out to get some groceries”, or “I’m going out to get the car fixed”, but I’m sure I’ve never said, “Honey, I’m going out to get some wisdom” – and yet it’s what I need the most. I devote hours and days to getting all kinds of stuff – exercise, food, money, store products, friends – but very little time getting the kind of deep understanding that brings real light to a life. I’m prompt about getting prescriptions filled, but not especially swift in getting insights about how to live with poise and light-heartedness. I’m good at getting to the Y most days for a workout, but getting wisdom about why the world sometimes seems to be in a senseless mess is another matter. I guess my priorities need repositioning. I guess getting wisdom should be right at the top, instead of down below with getting a Snickers and getting to bed at nine.    

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


(in Hanover, NH, with Delycia)

     I guess like most of us, I have been searching for wisdom for most of my life – searching for some sense of who I am and what this thing called life is all about. Sometimes – often on silent, unblemished summer mornings like this one – I realize, to my dismay, that my search has been wasteful and silly, since true wisdom doesn’t have to be searched for. It’s wherever I am, as ever-present as air and as immeasurable as the sky. To find wisdom, I simply have to stop searching for it, open the door of my small, cautious self, and walk out to where boundless wisdom is always making its miracles. It should be as simple as that.  


       I’ve known some people who seemed to think their lives were shameful and of no use to anyone, when all I could see radiating out from them was honor and brightness. To me, they were first-class human beings who seemed to shine the light of sincere kindness wherever they were, but they seemed to see nothing but disgrace and shadows inside themselves. When I was with them, I felt lit up by their loving interest in others, by their gentleness, and by the welcoming openness of their lives, but about themselves they seemed to feel only meagerness and embarrassment. I wanted to shake them and say, “Don’t you see the light of love you shine on everyone! Don’t you know how wonderful you are!” Somehow, the brightness they brought to others, and the honor of their own lives – honor which helped others feel honorable as well – they never noticed.   

Monday, August 17, 2015


In Hanover,  NH, with Delycia

     This morning, as we watched young people relaxing on the Dartmouth College green – tossing Frisbees and footballs, stretching out in the sunshine, strolling hand-in-hand – it brought back memories of “recess” when I was a kid, and made we wonder if these years in my 70’s have become a wholesale recess for me. The word “recess”, coming from the Latin, originally meant “go back”, and perhaps I’ve gone back, fairly wholeheartedly, to my childhood days. Perhaps I’ve become a born-again kid, for whom de-stressing and loosening up is an accustomed way of life. These days, I sometimes toss minutes and hours around like Frisbees, just seeing how time can sail and soar when I’m not fighting it. My days are occasionally like sitting in steady sunshine, or strolling with life to see where it takes me. I still work hard, especially at reading and writing and listening and thinking and loving, but I do it like I did recess in 3rd grade. These days I skip more than I struggle.  


     Occasionally I set aside an hour or so in which I do no reading or writing or walking or even talking; instead, I try to do what I call “realizing”. As an alternative to prioritizing, analyzing, or dramatizing (old habits of mine), I simply realize for a few minutes. One dictionary says to “realize” is to become fully aware of something, and to understand it better -- and this is exactly how I try to spend an hour now and then. I sometimes sit outside in the shade and do my best to realize – make more real – the limbs and leaves of trees as they bend and waver in the wind. I study them carefully and try to truly see them as they are, and before long, usually, some new understanding of them arises, as if they suddenly do become more real to me. I also sometimes realize the clouds in the summer sky above our house, just watching them wander along, steadily shifting their shapes. If I watch them long enough, they seem to slowly become more distinct, and therefore more remarkable, and somehow, again, a fresh kind of understanding of them comes to me. It’s an instructive way to occasionally spend an hour. It’s helpful, every so often, to realize this really wondrous world.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


          I live with my wife in a small house on a small lot in a small town, but sometimes it becomes clear to me that my true home – my dominion, you might say – is far larger than that. The word “dominion” stems from the Latin word domus, meaning “home”, and my real home is a vast one, stretching from the most distant stars to the deepest depths of the ocean. The truth is that, like all of us, I am an inseparable and essential part of a measureless universe.  My home is not Mystic, but the cosmos itself, a cosmos where all things, from new-born babies to massive spans of mountains, are of equal importance. We all share dominion in this dominion of ours, this universe that knows no end to its territories and provinces.  From infinitesimal insects, to trees in forests, to presidents, to poor wanderers -- we’re all kings and queens forever and everywhere -- if only we knew it. This morning, lucky for me, I’m knowing it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


 While Cia’s flowers are thoroughly flourishing these days, I feel like I’m doing some flourishing myself. The word comes from the Latin flos, meaning “flower”, and in some ways my life seems to be flowering fairly profusely in these days of my 70’s. My skin may be sagging somewhat, and my days of speedy, hours-long cycling may be over, but something keeps springing up inside me, sort of the way bulbs rise up into blossoms. Call it eagerness, or spirit, or zeal, or sparkle – whatever it is, it seems stronger than ever now that my face is furrowed with 74 years. I haven’t run anywhere in years, but spirited thoughts sometimes run riot inside me, like the phlox that float luxuriously in her garden. My money doesn’t multiply every day, but my fervent feelings definitely do – feelings that make this old life feel like the young and plentiful garden it actually is.  


     Watching the rain fall today in its somewhat blasé, easygoing way, I see that it’s sort of the way I’m living my life lately. I’m 74, and I guess I’ve done enough careful living that I can now deserve some carefree, devil-may-care days. The rain seems to sway this way and that in a totally stress-free manner, and I’m trying to let my life do something similar – lean wherever things want me to lean, swing this way or that with sorrows or joys, bend (instead of break) with the winds of change. But being blithe about things doesn’t mean being lazy or muddled, just free of the wish to control everything. The rain controls nothing, but simply sails where the weather wants it to, and I’m learning by watching. If I’m lucky, my coming days may be more like joyful free-falls than strenuous personal productions.  

Monday, August 3, 2015


On Laurel Lake in the Berkshires
     This morning, as I was sitting on the screened porch of our cottage, the sunlight was flashing on the windswept waves of the lake, and you might say some thoughts were flashing inside me, as well. They weren’t especially impressive thoughts, just the small, shaky, transitory ones that seem to be always flowing through my mind. In some ways, I seem to be made mostly of thoughts. By the thousands, they stream through me each day, swirling and sometimes surging and shimmering like the ripples on the sunny lake this morning. Of course, sometimes my thoughts are hushed and almost unseen, like Laurel Lake on a windless, misty day, but they’re always there, these inexplicable currents called thoughts, moving me through the days of my life. This morning I watched the flashing surface of the lake for a few minutes, just enjoying the ever-shifting patterns of the waves, and perhaps I should simply watch my thoughts more often. Sitting on the screened porch of my mind, I might see a fairly fascinating show.       

Sunday, August 2, 2015


On Laurel Lake in the Berkshires
     This morning I went for a peaceful float on the lake, and was surprised, as always, by the strength of the water. As I easily drifted on the surface, I wondered how something so soft can be so strong? How can water, which sometimes seems the weakest and most insubstantial of materials, easily hold up my body, to say nothing of ships of astonishing size? I suppose it has something to do with the strange strength inherent in all weakness. I once knew a man who, though bed-ridden with a paralyzing illness, radiated the rarest kind of power. To stand beside the bed of this debilitated man was to feel almost afloat on his joyful inner strength. And what about air, that seemingly flimsy presence all around us? Does it not sometimes sweep through our neighborhoods with incredible power, as though something fragile suddenly found the force it always had? Tomorrow, I think I’ll keep a lookout for the strength in weakness – perhaps how the smallest birds soar easily across the lake, or how soft sunlight lights up an entire valley, or how old, furrowed fingers can type words that sometimes speak.       

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Outside the window all the leaves seemed light
and free, just floating in the summer breeze,
and all their thoughts were just as free, like slight

and wavy winds that moved with perfect ease.

Monday, July 20, 2015


 A friend who has been feeling the effects of a long-standing physical problem told me recently that he sees, now, that the problem is like a wind that’s actually “bringing [him] home to the harbor” (his words). He said somehow this physical difficulty is slowly blessing him with a greater awareness that his real home is actually the entire vast universe, and not his small, sometimes distressed body. He said this chronic problem seems to have opened him to what he called “the immensity of life itself”, and he knows, now, that he’s part of an immeasurable “wind” that’s softly and irresistibly blowing toward greater understanding. He said he has come to think of his physical discomfort as an opportunity. (He explained that the word “opportunity” derives from Latin words meaning “in the direction of the harbor”.) He said he certainly doesn’t welcome or enjoy the discomfort, but he’s watching it patiently and earnestly to see how it takes him to a harbor, and how understanding slowly spreads out on the horizon.    

Monday, July 13, 2015


     It seems fitting that in these, my retirement years, I have decided to formally retire from my role as a performer. It seems to me that I have been performing on a daily basis for most of my life, trying my best to do countless big and little jobs as perfectly as possible. I guess I felt I had to “prove something” over and over by carrying out this or that duty in a successful manner. It was as though I was on stage, and only the best performance would earn applause. No more, though. I’ve stepped down from the stage and am now sitting serenely in the audience, watching the wonderful world I live in perform. Just now the sky above me is doing its “light blue with wispy cloud” performance, a breeze is executing its “brushing against flowers” routine, sparrows are showing off their flits and flutters at the feeders, my lungs are doing their lifting and falling presentation in a perfect way, and even the distant traffic on the interstate is staging its own show of smooth and steady sounds. Tell me, why should I bother to perform when there’s so much to see on the stage of this surprising world?

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Slowly it has become clear to me that my seemingly little life, the one I’ve been carefully protecting all these years, is not little at all and does not need my protection. Decades ago, as a boy, I somehow became convinced that what I called “my” life was a small, separate, and at-risk entity, but now I see how mistaken I was. I see that “my” life is not mine at all, but is part of, and belongs to, the endless Universe, the way a drop of water belongs to the ocean or a wisp of a breeze belongs to the everlasting wind. I see that I no more need protection than does a drop of ocean water. The drop drifts with its measureless ocean, the breeze works within the wind, and I move as the Universe moves, swirling along with the currents of life the way stars stream along in the immensity of the sky. I do sometimes like to pretend that I, by myself, perform and produce, but I know now that it’s the endless Universe (some call it “God”) that always does the work. I see I am part of something so large it makes “my” artificial little life, the one I invented in boyhood and have been caring for ever since, seem silly and beside the point.              

Saturday, July 11, 2015


     As I was watching some clouds carrying themselves across the sky today and slowly shifting their shapes, it occurred to me that I am a sort of cloud myself. I, too, am constantly changing, despite my deceptively fixed appearance. If people had seen me sitting outside this afternoon, they wouldn’t have seen the river of fresh thoughts flowing through me, each one new and special, each one making me someone slightly new. Nor would they have seen the cells in my body being purified or replaced, or the fresh oxygen bringing newness to my lungs, or the blood ferrying freshness to every part of my body. They would have seen a 74-year-old silvery guy staring at the sky, perhaps at a fluffy cloud that first looked like a lion, and then a ship, and then a sailing heart. They wouldn’t have noticed that his life was slightly new each moment. They wouldn’t have seen what was constantly being born inside him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


 We use a purification system at home to filter our well-water, but fortunately, I don’t need or want purifying treatment for myself, because I, like all of us, am part of a universe that has been flowing along in the purest of ways for eons. I may not like a lot that happens to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that a fundamental freshness and healthiness has been part of the universe from the start. With my self-oriented way of seeing things, yes, there does seem to be “contamination” of all kinds around me. Severe storms certainly don’t seem clean and fresh, and sickness seems a long way from freshness. However, all of it, in some mysterious way – all of the successes and defeats and pleasures and sorrows – is the interwoven, flawless work of an unblemished universe. I guess my goal is to see life, not as I personally want it to be, but as it actually is – the faultless flowing of a river of gifts that are 100% gifts.    


Saturday, July 4, 2015


It often amazes me to realize how gratuitous my life has been – how totally unearned and unmerited most of the gifts I’ve received have been. Yes, I know I’ve occasionally worked hard and earned some justifiable rewards, but the big gifts, the important gifts, have come to me as unearned, free-of-charge presents. For instance, there’s the flood of helpful thoughts that flow through me each day, all of them coming without much effort on my part. I don’t strain and sweat to make useful thoughts; they somehow simply show up, like on-the-house gifts from the universe. And what did I do to deserve being born of hard-working, level-headed, and loving parents? I showed up in November of 1941, and there before me was the undeserved gift of a fairly well-off and wonderful family. Finally, there are the gifts I get day by day – a smile from someone, or a sweet word of kindness, or hours of steady sunshine, all handed to me on a platter free of charge. I wonder if I should feel embarrassed about all these free handouts, or just grateful for a universe that seems to give because it’s fun.

Friday, July 3, 2015


      During a walk with Delycia on this warm morning, I took my hat off whenever we entered a shady area, just to cool down, and it started me thinking about the old custom of men “tipping” their hats when in the presence of someone special – tipping their hats, and perhaps bowing with stately graciousness. We were not walking past kings and queens this morning, but we were surely in the midst of magnificence. There were, for instance, majestic old trees along the streets, some of which were here when my grandparents were young, and which still stand in a resplendent and regal way. Do they not deserve a tip of the hat and a bow? And what about the soft winds that cooled us as we walked, winds that have been working their magic in a solemn and measured manner for eons? Shouldn’t an old, grateful guy occasionally give them a tip of the hat and a cultured bow as he walks in the morning with his sweetheart?