Thursday, November 28, 2013


For the voyage of life from seed to harvest, the kiss
of rain and sun and growth, the gifts of the earth given
into the hands of strangers, friends and family
whose efforts now bring such bounty to this table.

Thanks for the soft animal body that carries each life
here present, so sturdy and so fragile;
thanks and praise for fellowship, and for the lives
of those now absent who yet linger among us;
thanks for the complex ways we each continue to seek
and find our place, unique like everyone else.

Lead us to the gift of regular silence until it silences us;
bring us to choose gratitude until we are truly grateful;
fill us with praise until we become ourselves
a constant act of praise.

So we give thanks for all things, including joys
and sorrows deeply felt but left, here, unspoken.

Carol Bindel 

Published in UUWorld, Winter 2012, 22.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK, fifty years and...

Certainly, I remember. I was a freshman in college. I feared America would soon go to war with "the Reds," for how could this not be sabotage? But I went to work that evening serving food.

Fifty years later, serving food continues to be a worthy endeavor.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Innate Courage

We spent the day yesterday with our Lucy who will turn 16 months next week. She has a riding toy that she likes to climb on, holding onto the steering handles while she steps onto the seat. She then lets go the hand-holds and straightens, all the while saying aloud to herself and the world, "Get down, get down, get down..." and grinning her biggest, most joyful grin. She didn't hear "get down" from us, and I doubt her parents sing-song it at her, either. I think it's coming from her deepest self, that sense of danger and courage to try anyway. May we continue to have the courage.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Researchers have found that intense engagement in and commitment to an activity is a proven route to happiness and well-being. Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Crown Publishers, New York, 2012. 259

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Power of Introverts

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen. Simply wait. Do not even wait. Be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet. Franz Kafka

This quote feels like a poem to me. I want to insert line breaks, to slow the thought, to savor and absorb the whole of the way of being contained there. This is the essence of my practice for life.

I am reading Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. (Crown Publishing, 2012.) It's an extraordinarily well researched and clearly written book, full of stories and illustrations of the findings of the specific studies relating to how extroverts and introverts function in society, how we Americans hold to the extrovert ideal but not all societies do so. It's full of reminders that both ways of experiencing and interacting with the world are valid and needed.

Both / And.

I need all those stories and illustrations Cain gives, but I can't begin to remember them all. Thus I come back to practicing the essence that is contained in Kafka's words. A recipe, instruction. I'm here to affirm that in my quiet, solitary time I come to be at ease with the emotions of experience that otherwise would be beyond my enduring. Without the practice of coming to quiet I would surely need antidepressants, I may have come to suicide, for my world experience includes much pain. Yet there is also all the rest: the deep blue of a clear sky over a place of open country, i.e. the middle of nowhere which is really the middle of no-ones; little Lucy in my arms pointing to the ruffle of clouds three days after new moon, begging to see again the huge, luminous, weeks-past full moon, "Moon? moon?"; the love that radiates to me from all my family and friends, and I am blessed with many. 

I will never attempt to publish this poem in this form elsewhere, so I will include it here, a poem of grief and refuge. 


The trees know the season, in spite of summer-like warmth.
All of them gradually show fall colors. These days light
shines through with the orange-gold richness so typical of October.
The yearly quilt made of individual leaf scraps spreads out on the woods floor,
each scrap still holding its bright color. They will turn brown in today's rain,
then more still-bright-colored ones will layer over them.
The phone call came at daybreak last Wednesday.
In the dark hours my sister's grandson,
our Ryan, died.
Nineteen years old.
His heart stopped
and would not be started.
I am laid out flat on the ground of grief.
But wait. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom.
I notice my heart still beats.
Unbidden, my breath flows.
I did not die; I am alive.
Sweet and bitter truth.
I am still alive in this body of earth
with all I've ever learned and known 
now given one more experience,
another chance to be transformed.
Here is my refuge.
After a time I move to small, ordinary life things.
Draw and drink a glass of cool, sweet water.
Make coffee: filter, grounds, water, brew, pour, sip.
Walk out on the deck and notice the natural world
which both does and does not notice me. Now
all long standing habits support and direct my day.
Here is my refuge.
Pick up the phone, share the news with family
and folk willing to listen and hear. Days add on, again
and again I am embraced by friends, neighbors, a community
of those who carry all there is with me. Step, step, step, step.
I pace the known, mysterious path. Alone in my skin
and never alone. Never alone. Never alone.
Here is my refuge.
The dogwood leaves drop, blood red. One frosty morning soon
a puddle of gold will have fallen overnight to cover the ground
over the roots of our maple tree.
I am working to distill this one to publishable form, but perhaps it's not now possible for me. Still, it is another version of understanding and dealing with the experience of the world that, as Kafka says, "offers itself... unmasked."

P.S.("...the so-called Big Five traits: Introversion-Extroversion; Agreeableness; Openness to Experience; Conscientiousness; and Emotional Stability. (Many personality psychologists believe that human personality can be boiled down to these five characteristics.)" 227. My training is so old--or insufficient?-- that I wasn't aware of this. I want books on the other four traits, too. And then I'll come back to practicing the way of the Kafka quote.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Full days, intense as fine wine

Days full of intense experiences remind me of fine wine with amazing flavors, some of them unpleasant if they were to stand on their own. But in this linked-together world nothing stands on its own. Thus, my own experiences combine to make an amazing flavor. Yes, there is mourning and pain, both physical and emotional (and dare I say spiritual), my own and that of others close to me. And there is also eager discovery and laughter and new life coming as fast as old life decays and fades. Maybe faster.

I remind myself again and again not to take on my shoulders burdens that are not mine to bear, and it keeps me from getting the frantic notion that I should do something. It is mine to stand on the rim of the hill bearing witness. Bear witness, and experience all the piquant flavors of the day.

Another full sunrise, gorgeous day, and I do have my own, specific things to hand that really are mine to do. Simple tending things. Small, human-doing things. I will breathe and bear witness, practice human-being, and tend human-doing.

And I will rejoice and be glad for all the gifts the day brings. All. Because life comes as a full, complete package. The gift of the life that I am given.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The philosopher Irenaeus says the glory of God is man fully alive. (Writer's Almanac, 11-5-2013)

Monday, November 4, 2013


Can't we just call it a day, and give our overanxious and ironic selves a rest? Might we consider boredom as not only necessary for our life but also as one of its greatest blessings? A gift, pure and simple, a precious chance to be alone with our thoughts and alone with God? .... Speaking prophetically to future generations, including our own, (Bertrand Russell) writes that "a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men... unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, in whom every vital impulse withers."  Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me, Riverhead Books, 2008. 40,41.

After weeks of rushing and anxiety―on October 21 my nephew Dennis' foot was severed in an accident. It's been reattached, but it's healing is iffy, still. And my sister and her husband are downsizing and moving across the country, and we've been trying to act in support―after all that,  today I could be tending a thousand small postponed jobs for my own household, and there is such an amount of unstructured time and such a lack of an organized list and agenda that I am at loose ends, hardly knowing what to do.

Soup's on the stove for supper, though, and one load of wash is dry and the next ready for the dryer. Small, specific and at the ground floor of life. And here I am, writing about the process of it. When I heard, "You can't fall off the ground," I recognized a profound truth. So when I experience acedia, ennui, or boredom, I know some ground floor places to turn to. A practice. Life as a continuing practice. And sometimes sprinkled, lucky me, with just a brief moment of the gift of boredom.