The Rain Came in Waves

The rain came
in waves
to the desert.
The ground was
as hard as the
concrete sidewalks
and harder than
black-top
roadways.
The rain ran
over the ground
into gullies
carrying desert
debris away
to storm drains
and then down,
down, down.
He watches it all
wash away
and thinks he
will stay
in the desert at
least another day
to watch a flower
bloom, an aquifer
fill and a coyote
lap water from
a puddle along
the way.

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So, I’m Watching a Program About Religious Pilgrimages

So I’m watching a PBS program about
religious pilgrimages. This episode is
about purifying in the Ganges. I hear
the voice of a Hindu guru who has
millions of followers worldwide. I look
up from my dinner in front of the TV and
see this guy in yellow robes who, if he
shaved, would look really familiar. To
me, he doesn’t say anything particularly
profound, mostly a lot of stuff like
Robert Schuller used to say about the
power of positive thinking, but I realize
the guru sounds and looks, if the guru
wore a white coat, exactly like my
allergist, a guy who prescribed just
the right medicine for my asthma. I
wonder if the great Hindu guru moon-
lights as a physician in my home town
in Michigan and then I think if he does,
he, a man of science and medicine, would
never get into that filthy river with
millions of other people because of all
the allergies and infections just waiting
for the those hoards of spiritual pilgrims.
I think he would stand on the bank, turmeric
dyed chiffon robes flowing in the breeze,
mumbling a sacred power of positive
thinking prayer before hoping a
plane to the US.

Climbing without Oxygen

Exhausted from the 
two thousand mile 
trek west 
to the wild and wooly West 
with their Chocolate Lab, 
the couple slumped 
onto the couch 
in their condo 
as the lab lounged 
at their feet 
and at five p.m. 
Mountain Time 
the sun began 
to set on the little, 
desert hill 
out the sliding door. 
“Oh, look, dear,” he 
mumbled, 
“The snow has melted on 
Everest and the peak 
is glowing gold. 
Tomorrow, we should climb 
without oxygen
and pan for that 
precious metal.” 
With that, he fell asleep
and his wife turned off
the wild adventure 
channel on the T.V.

Christmas Day Evening in a Copper Mining Town, 2010

The couple drove into the old,
copper mining town resurrected
as an artists’ colony with
studios on each of three tiers
of what used to be one side of
the mining pit. A grand old
hotel sat on top. When the
 
miners dug down deep enough,
people planted a garden of homes
and businesses on the terraced
red earth. The only thing
open on Christmas day evening
was a local watering hole
on the first tier, so the couple
 
parked, told their Chocolate
Lab they would be back soon
and headed for the bar. When
they opened the door the aroma
of no longer fresh sauerkraut,
sausage, boiled potatoes and
fish tacos greeted them. The
 
big voiced, female bartender
boomed, “Merry Christmas.
Some of us local yokels are
having Christmas cheer and
a potluck. Ya’ll are welcome.”
The couple tested their luck as
they picked gingerly through
 
the now dead as a duck potluck
and hoisted a few to the not
quite true four-part harmony of
“Jingle Bells.” More than a
few tears were shed several
lines into “Have Yourself a
Merry Little Christmas,” and
 
after the last fa, la, la, la, la
of “Deck the Halls,” the couple
thanked everybody for Christ-
mas communion on the road.
The man stood outside his
motel room, in the cold, starry,
moonlit night allowing him to
 
see the silhouette of the mount-
ain range just north of the border.
He thought of the contrast of
the beauty of the mountains
and the violence on the other
side. He thought of Jesus being
born in the desert between the
 
mountains and the border and
how Jesus would need plenty
of water to survive the trip
with Mary and Joseph all the
way to Tucson. He looked at
his Chocolate Lab and said,
“Peace on earth, good buddy.”

Christmas Morning in Las Cruses, 2010

Christmas morning in Las Cruses,                                                                                 2010, the recently retired                                                                                           preacher left the motel

room to walk the Chocolate
Lab and saw a beat-up pickup
with the hood up in the park-

ing lot of McDonalds. The cab
was jam-packed and a chubby,
little girl emerged with her little

dog from lots of stuff in the front
seat. Her dad was looking under
the hood at other stuff. The preach-

er asked if they were okay and
the dad said he just needed such
and such so they could get back

on the road. They were coming
from Phoenix and on their way
to Florida to live with his mother.

He had lost his job and their home
and his wife. The preacher said
it was Christmas day and no auto

supply stores would be open to
find such and such stuff for
under the hood. The dad said

he thought he could jerry-rig the
engine and the preacher, after talk-
ing with his wife, paid for a night

at the motel for the dad, his daugh-
ter and the dog. They said good-
bye and when the preacher, his

wife and Chocolate Lab were
about four hours or so down the
road toward Arizona, he called

the motel. The dad and his daught-
er had used the room, took showers,
had a short nap and had headed

out for Florida with their jerry-
rigged, beat-up pickup. The preach-
er and his wife felt really good that,

at least, there had been room for
the dad, his daughter and their little
dog at the inn that Christmas day.

Christmas Morning at a Dog Friendly Hacienda, 2014

Sitting at a table toward the back of the break-
fast room at the hacienda friendly to dogs was
a black man, white woman and their beautiful,

bronze, baby girl with a pink bow in her hair.
The couple lived a state away but there were
so many relatives converging for Christmas,

they decided a stay at the motel would be best.
There were two elderly white couples sitting
a few tables away from each other;

one couple was from Buffalo, New York and talked
about snow; the other couple just smiled; there
was a family of blacks, mother and father and two

teenage children at a table between the mixed race
couple and the quiet, smiling, elderly, white couple.
A family of five Hispanics came in and

borrowed a chair from the mixed race couple so all
five could sit around the same table. The white,
retired preacher and his wife sat at a table in the

midst of all the others. The preacher was so excited
to see a rainbow coalition of God’s children gathered
in the breakfast room of the hacienda friendly to

dogs that he went out of his way to go from table to
table to say Merry Christmas and gently affirm them
by putting a hand on their shoulders while he

asked them questions about traveling on Christmas.
If he felt badly about anything that Christmas
morning, it was that this group wasn’t having

communion together in worship, but, then again,
maybe the exactly formed, round, egg patties
and exactly formed, round, sausage patties

and the single, square slices of processed
cheese, all of which fit exactly on the
English muffins along with

orange juice, milk, coffee and tea would
suffice to share on a Christmas morning
at the dog friendly hacienda.

He Watched a Sacred Journey

He watched a sacred journey of five 
million strong walking peacefully,
shoulder to shoulder, unintentionally 
jostling, bumping sometimes actually
hurting other walkers -- unbelievably 
smelly pilgrims bowing row after row, 
butt to head, head to butt after several 
days without a shower and all he could 
do from his leather chair was to feel 
claustrophobic, catch his breath and 
think about his next spiritual pilgrimage
-- jogging with his wife and Chocolate 
Lab in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve 
with just the snakes, javalinas and 
coyotes as fellow pilgrims, who thank-
fully keep their distance.

In Seventy Years

In seventy years, 
only two really bad deaths 
	happened to him. 
They only took from a minute 
		to an hour 
or just about 3,600 seconds 
			total to happen, 
but the amount of time given to
 
reflect, ruminate, tolerate, endure and persevere 
 
seems like infinity 
		(on and on and on and on) 
when those bad deaths 
happen to loved ones, 
which they did. 
 
The good news is that love wins 
eternally, which it does,
then and in the future --
ever right now.