In These Times

In these disquieting times
what is it that you think is fine?
I think it’s fine
to have two things
over which to opine —
the sewer system and soap,
things giving credence to hope —
the two greatest medical
accomplishments for all time —
the sewer system and soap.

Collecting Idioms, Catch Phrases and Cliches During An In-Between Time

I’ve been “chaffing and chomp-
ing at the bit,” so to speak. A
scholar put it, “Betwixt and be-
tween.” When I read that idiom,

I thought of Pat Boone, my child-
hood hero, who wrote the teen-
age advice books Twix Twelve
and Twenty and Between You,

Me and the Gatepost. It seems
my life has always been betwixt
and between — something. The
meditation was about being in

the in-between place because
of cancer. At some point in the
ordeal, the author saw that dark,
in-between time as an opportunity,

a time of spiritual growth — a way
through it to light. I’m assuming
that she got there after tremendous
struggle. It’s two weeks today since

eye surgery and I’m “both chaffing
and chomping at the bit,” meaning
I haven’t gotten to the “Ah, ha”
moment in emerging from the “dark

night of the soul,” or the dark night
of wondering if I’m going to go blind.
Well, I’m not going to go blind, (Thank
you, Jesus.) so, I’ll tell you what I

have been doing during this recuperation
time, I’ve been collecting catchphrases like
Twixt Twelve and Twenty. Seriously,
was Pat Boone really my hero? Now

I am in the “embarrassed night of
the soul.” I saw the commercial where
his toupe accidentally got caught in
the mobile microphone and was lifted

off his head. Pat, put the wig away
and go through your own “dark
night of the bald soul.” Bald-
ness is not so bad. “Been there;

done that,” and there I go again.

Erehwon and Nowhere

He loves the camera,
he loves selfies,
he loves all the attention.
He’s my four-year-old grandson.
No, actually, you weren’t
thinking of my grandson,
who really is completely
self-absorbed, as it should
be at that age, the age of
gaining a sense of self.
You were probably thinking
of the temporary occupant
who needs the camera,
the selfies,
the constant attention
of the madding crowd,
which, hopefully, my
grandson eventually will put away.
The temporary occupant can’t
because, for him,
he exists only in the camera,
in the selfie, in the attention
of the madding crowd.
He is nowhere else.
Erehwon was the name of
an outdoor shop — nowhere spelled
backward — the out-of-doors,
the “everywhere place.”
We are part of Erehwon — everything.
The temporary occupant is a part of
nothing except the camera,
the selfie, the constant attention
of the madding crowd.
How profoundly sad for
the temporary occupant
who, in his mind, is Erehwon
but is nowhere.

Now and Then*

“Now we see dimly; then face to face.”
The glory shines through the darkness.
The sun rises, the clouds clear space.
The earth comes alive in the stillness.

A solitary jogger moves along a trail.
A chipmunk scurries away.
On the Big Lake, a boat takes sail.
In the dune, whitetails play.

In spring, the leaves unfurl.
In summer, green commands the day.
In fall, the colorful leaves curl.
In winter, everything says, “Quietly stay.”

In the tempo, in the rhythm,
Spirit’s heartbeat is revealed.
There is steady evolution;
Spirit’s glory is partially concealed

Because we see dimly,
Because we turn away,
Because we seek only ourselves clearly
Until that promised darkness dispelling day.

The scales will fall from our eyes.
The ego will vanish from inside.
Spirit’s glory shines before our eyes,
In Spirit’s holiness, our spirits abide.

And we will see beyond where the eagle flies.

*idea from a meditation by Frederick Buechner

The Fickle Flame

They had a rocky marriage
for twenty-six years

and then went to a tropical
isle to reignite the flame.

Unfortunately, the flame
flamed out with each other

but the flame flamed bright
with a tropical, tanned speedo-ed other

until they got back on the plane
went home and said goodbye to each other

never to say hello again
to the tropical, tanned speedo-ed other.

The Liminal Now Seems Continual — There Is No Going Back

In life, if we are honest, the liminal
now seems continual.
We think we have arrived
but then grateful to have survived,

but wondering what is next.
We feel constricted in the chest.
Systems are upset
and patterns beyond stressed.

For history’s saints, the liminal is home.
in the in-between, they roamed.
Sometimes they did the upsetting.
and paid a price for society’s spiritual vetting.

The question now is upon us.
Will we see this moment as a plus
or clamor for the un-regainable past
and futilely grab for that which has passed,

never to return? And so we look
to those who lived by a seemingly different book,
who guide us into the future to cope,
giving us courage and gladness and hope.

Under the Bodhi Tree and where saints roamed,
for us in the confines of the home —
still, we wander through the spiritual desert
in the liminal with them in concert.

No longer will we glance back, the past to exalt,
lest we all turn into pillars of salt.

*idea from a meditation by Richard Rohr, April
26, 2020

When the Lockdown Starts Getting to You

He thought he would jump out of his skin
but what kind of skin would he then be in?
He thought he was beside himself
but he looked and there was no one else.
He wondered philosophically,
if he is trapped in his own lonely skin,
or is it in that skin that profound solitude may begin?
Is that what it means to be comfortable
in one’s own skin?
And then he pondered, We might as well be
because it’s the only skin we will ever be in.
As an extrovert, he’s concerned about being alone
but he does have an internal phone.
He can call himself and say,
“It’s nice to talk with you today.
You are my one true friend.”
And then his wife said,
“Dear, you are mumbling again.”

Mix and Match: Where Does It All Go?

On Earth Day, the garbage guy
tossed mounds of garbage in the truck;
I stood and watched recyclables fly
all around the garbage truck.

On Earth Day, the garbage guy
came back and tossed recyclables in the truck;
I stood and watched garbage fly
all around the recyclables’ truck.

Some do their best to separate the stuff
but does it all get combined anyway?
Where does the garbage guy dump the stuff,
in an ever-growing landfill somewhere along the way?

We do our bit
responsibly to get rid of it;
where does it go?
Do we really ever know?



The Ones He Loved Most

The ones he loved most,
at the time,
even when he didn’t
realize it, at the time, departed

early on, not just abruptly
but instantaneously. Puff.
Never to return. That
could cause some consternation,

some pretty serious questioning
if not the desire to go puff, too.
So what to do?
One of those who flew

the coop, so to speak,
had told him that his family
was the church. His family
shattered after one of

the departures. He became
a minister. The church was.
He’s made it to old age
and he’s thankful for

those communities no
matter how conditional
the love in those places
(it served its purpose),

for the ministerial purpose
which helped keep him
alive, but he has moved
on and on and on and

now is just grateful for
the love that is in the
hearts of spouse,
children, friends

and he realizes that
that love is the love
of God known through
the ever-present

laughing and crying,
dying and rising
of the Christ he sees
in them all

and today it is
especially in the
really bad jokes
sent via e-mail

to help us cope —
by one of those
friends who called
and kept calling

long distance so
many, many years
ago just to help
keep him alive.