Search Lights of Life*

When I was a kid, in a summer’s eve,
sometimes bright search lights would
interrupt the darkness, fly and criss-

cross the sky. It was an urban thing
usually signaling the opening of a gas
station. I was mesmerized by the lights

wondering how far up the light went.
And then we would hop in the car
and track down the lights and see

the gas as advertised as the cheapest
in town, at least for a day or two.
The idea must have come from WWII

when lights scanned the sky in search
of enemy planes. Now, search lights
point down from hovering helicopters

in pursuit of suspected criminals.
If I ever think back to the days when
those lights streamed back and forth

across the night sky, I think of those
huge rays as each of us searching for
meaning not enemy planes or the start

of a capitalistic venture. Then I real-
ize truth of the venture is experienced
when the beams intersect and in that

instant, they become us, we become one
and the light shines brighter than ever
through the darkness…

and the darkness becomes light.

*idea from a meditation by Frederick Buechner

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He Went For A Trail Jog

He went for a trail jog
and it was the only thing
that day, which felt pure,

clean, whole, unadulterated
because it was purging,
cleansing physical exertion —

one step after another
in the face of the expose
of all the disgusting

power plays played out
in creepy sexual behavior
now exposed day after

day after day on TV
and so he stops along
the trail, listens to

the sounds of the forest
and makes calls like he
believes were Native

American calls of har-
mony and unity with the
forest and the animals

therein and the forest
and the animals therein
forgive him for a bad

imitation and wish him
well along the purging,
purifying, spiritual trail.

Before the Walls Pop

I think it is a compulsion -- soup making.
     Not from scratch, but my wife has never 
been big on leftovers because as one of 
     five kids, she never experienced them. 
I got into trouble once for not asking
     if I could use the leftovers, so from 
last night’s wonderful dinner of drop 
     dead gorgeous, fall off the bone pork 
ribs in a saucy sauce and salvaged-from-
     the-crisper squash slathered in fresh 
garlic, I asked, "Honey, may I, pretty 
     please?" and got the go ahead nod with 
a note of enthusiasm -- red and yellow 
     bell peppers, eye-tearing onions, Italian 
seasoning (organic oregano, organic basil, 
     organic marjoram, organic sage, organic 
garlic), more fresh garlic, multi-colored 
     carrots, salt and pepper, some more salt and 
pepper, chicken stock, filtered water, huge purple
     radishes from the farmer’s market, a can of 
diced tomatoes, more dried seasoning, did I 
     mention more fresh garlic? deep orange 
carrots from the farmer’s market, deep green peas 
     in edible skins from the farmer’s market and 
heat, lots of heat to boiling and back and forth 
     and, did I mention some more salt and pepper? 
The house was filled with such gastronomic delight 
     I thought the walls were going to pop. It’s 
cold, it’s sunny, a great day for a jog after a 
     small taste test tease and dreaming on the 
trails of all our friends in the pot cozy 
     on a cold day beckoning, “We will be here 
waiting for you, love. Better get back before 
     the walls pop in ecstasy."

Perception is One’s Reality and Another’s Excuse

He has been criticized as being lazy.
He just thinks expending more energy
than necessary on a task is wasteful.
He has been criticized as being rude.
He just thinks honesty is the best policy.
He has been criticized as being bad with details.
He just thinks delegating is good.
He has been criticized as being fickle.
He just thinks change is good.
He has been criticized as being impossible.
He just likes to give people a challenge.
He has been criticized as blind to his own faults.
He just likes to look on the bright side of life.

I Stay Here Long Enough

I stay here long enough to know
what my ancestors knew
and survived through —
cold, rain, sleet and lake effect snow.
And now I know
that having tasted of what
my ancestors knew
I can let go
and go and go
to one place seniors go
— the sunny Southwest
which given a dreary Midwest
winter is the best.

The Unconditional Love of Four Chocolate Labs

The man said, “I don’t know why,
but Jack’s death is haunting me.”

A friend had just blurted it out
assuming the man had read the
same notice.

In following days, the man pondered:
Perhaps because it was out of the
blue; maybe because, at one time Jack
and I were really close friends and
then just drifted apart, perhaps
because another “one time” intimate
has died.

Then he ruminated back over the years:
A high school girlfriend, a high
school/college girlfriend, a few
high school buddies, some college
friends, colleagues, a wife and four
chocolate labs in a row who just
up and died.

It just all seems too soon, too
short, too fragile, too impermanent,
too…something. I’m sure some of
these deaths were long in coming,
but sudden upon my hearing —
no time to get used to the parting.

And then in honesty in the stillness
of the moment of his thoughts: Maybe
because he didn’t have a chance or
take the opportunity at the time to
say what a wise man once wrote were
the most important sentences: “I’m
sorry. Please forgive me. I forgive
you. I love you,” except, that is,
for the four chocolate labs. He
was given the opportunity to
tell them and he took it.

He thought: Thank God for
the unconditional love of
the four chocolate labs.

An Ibuprofen or Two

The Arizona condo sale fell through the cracks;
the dog adoption went to the dogs;
all the stress has put an ache in my back;
I hurt so much I can’t even think of a jog.

And so I’ll just lie down for a while,
dream of winters in the Arizona sun;
soon on my face there will be a smile
and hopefully a sweet little trail run.

But first I need an ibuprofen or two
along with a vodka martini or maybe a few.

What Are We Going Through? A Dilemma?

What are we going through? It isn’t easy, especially considering human
nature beginning with the metaphor of scapegoating — of Adam and Eve
and the blaming of male against female and female against snake.

A purge? A catharsis? A newfound freedom? Liberation? Long overdue
empowerment? He did this and he did that — unthinkable, horrible,
acidic, corrosively destructive of fragile lives, predatory
behavior and a patent violation of women’s rights — human
rights.

There is sexual exploitation and predation and then, pedophilia, and
there isn’t much doubt about those, but what about harassment and
flirting? What is the definitive definition of sexual harassment?
Saying no?  That certainly must be respected.

Is it all in the eye of the beholder? Is it subjective? Is one woman’s
harassment, another man’s flirting? If he thinks he is flirting and
she says no and he continues, there is no doubt about that, but what
if he stops? Is he still guilty of harassment, if called on the carpet
and the whistle is blown no matter how many years later?

What about incriminating motives made for less than honorable reasons,
perhaps simple vindictiveness for what was experienced erroneously as
harassment years before?

Given our society’s dismal history of dismissal and sexual objectification
of females and historic forgiveness for “boys just being boys,” I will
opt for the courage of females to call out bad, unethical and perhaps
illegal behavior.

And that isn’t even considering sexual harassment and exploitation
and predatory behavior among gays.

What is being called out is all so sordid, but calling it out is
liberating and empowering…except when it’s dead wrong and so
the dilemma is with us and then who do I, an old, white man,
given my demographic’s culpability, think I am even to comment on
this?

Maybe I should just shut-up, but then the thought of the one
false, incriminating, defaming, reputation ruining accusation is
made and I cringe for the falsely accused and then judged in
the unforgiving court of public opinion.

Perhaps, when courts of law are not an option, it comes down
to simple numbers of people (overwhelmingly women) who have
nothing to gain except breaking the chains of false guilt
and fear rising up to dispel society’s umbrage.

He Heard

He heard on the radio, for the first time,
about another “Trail of Tears,” this time
a trail of tears for Michigan (his home),
Wisconsin and Minnesota, the trail of
tears of the Ojibway (Chippewa), forcibly
removed from their home in Northern
Michigan of hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of years across the forbidding
waters of Lake Superior by canoe to the
death march across Wisconsin into Minne-
sota. Is there no end to European hubris
— white supremacy showing its ugly face
again and again and again into 2017?
Apparently not. The Death March goes on.