Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When The Bough Breaks (or Godspeed, Sweet Poetess)

Twin maples stand some thirty feet apart back maybe twenty feet or so from our house.  I've mentioned them before.

I love them.

It is a great fear of mine that they will someday crumple under a heavy Spring snow or run out of room and light to flourish.  The boys have grown up under them, sheltered in their cool shade, swinging from one branch, pulling at another.

They have seen the starkness of black, late evening shadows thrown down by their branches on a blanket of purple snow.

They have laughed as silly, perplexing, inexplicably perfect little light green helicopters rained down as they tried to catch them in their toddler hands.

They have thrown and kicked and danced and screamed and broken bones and scraped and grass-stained knees under their sweet yellow, red, green, brown caring leaves.  These two trees are nurturers, to be sure.

So why then, when I looked out the kitchen window one morning a while back, was I annoyed when I saw that the one on the right had lost a great branch?  Why didn't I scream out for that tree, rushing to her aid immediately, when I saw what the overnight storm had done?  Why didn't I tremble at the wind that could produce such violence or marvel at the resilience of the tree brave enough to lose a limb and soldier triumphantly on?

Well, because there was a giant-ass limb hanging precariously from a tree in our yard I'm lazy, mostly.  I saw work and time and danger and and hassle.  I saw it as a problem, a burden, a drag.

Here is what the boys saw:

A branch fort underneath the "climbing tree."  As quickly as I could cut off the branches with my tired loppers, they scurried the pieces away, beaver-like, awkwardly dragging them and wrestling them into place and making a small spot for themselves under the familiar leaves.

I'd forgotten.  Forgotten my boyhood.  Forgotten my manhood.  Forgotten that it is all one long, frequently interrupted, childhood.  Forgotten that I am a child and that broken branches are a gift, broken branches are forever, leaned against a tree, made into a shelter, woven into a memory.

A couple of mornings later I went out to clean it all up.  The leaves were no longer vibrant and they drooped and sighed against each other.  This time I remembered, I listened to my own childness and made a collection of sticks and pretend swords and who-knows-what with my handsaw and loppers:

There are three long poles that simply thrilled them there at the top.  I also let them go through the pile to find their own branch and cut it per their instructions:

Nick's is on the left, a hand tool and weapon; Zack's is more a bow or staff.

Believe me, as summer continues, these sticks will vex both me and my tractor.  Should I curse them as I get off the tractor to move them, or should I walk the yard before I mow, calling to them from my own childhood, calling them to come play, calling them to be a part of the one memory, our collective memory - our infinite, essential childhood?


A poetess died today. But that is impossible because a poem never dies. We have lost a powerful and devoted voice of hope, yes, but that voice will sing on inspiring and teaching for generation to come.

Maya Angelou has died and for the first time in my memory I can see nothing else but the “angel” in her name.

I could never list the names of the all the writers who have inspired me over the years, shaped my voice, and made me expect more from the words I use and read, but if I did, her name would be in gold. I looked up a bibliography for her and realized I had read nearly all her beautiful books. I do not recall ever seeking them out but, they found me, as great words will, seeking a place where they could nurture me.

Whenever I heard her read I thought how proud the words seemed to be included, how she savored them all, and how, together, they went beyond their meaning, transcendent. I am sad for words today, they must be also mourning their beautiful caring champion.

So where to go now, right now. I believe I'll go on with what I had already planned. I could write on poetry for days and never make a point or I could simply say goodbye and Godspeed sweet poet, your journey has brightened mine and helped me to see it more clearly and deeply.

We are all telling the same story, I fiercely believe that.  My boys tell me that story.  Maya Angelou will always be telling that story.  I will continue to, and, I will listen as you tell it.

An exploding can that was fortunately not in Marci's backseat:

It was a hulluva mess, but, really, I didn't mind.  The boys thought it was "hilarious" and, honestly, so did I...

As always, I thank you for coming around my way again.  There's a lot to think about in this life, I appreciate you thinking along with me here on my journey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Prayer Out Of Nowhere

I wrote a prayer and I don't know what to do with it.  Isn't that weird?  I wrote it sort of for a friend and I wrote it to God and I think I wrote it for the boys to stumble upon someday, hopefully when their journey becomes as confused and convoluted as mine.  I tried to show it to you a while back in a post called On Purpose but I wasn't allowed to.

May I Call You?

Some call you Earth Mother or Universal Love. The Energy or The Source. You are water and fire and wind; you are stone and ice and stillness. You are the quiet between atoms; You are the majesty of thunder. You are pain and suffering; despair and hopelessness.

You are Everything. You are. That is too much for me. Forgive me.

May I call You Father?

May I use a simple truth I know to shape You for me? I understand the love

a father has for his children. Not because I have children, not because I was a son.

No. It is in a deeper place.

There is a place in our very souls upon which is etched, burned, blistered, the primal

need for our fathers. The need to know we came from good. To know, beyond measure,

that we are beloved.

You worried our souls with that, burdened us with the unflinching, unblemished love for

fathers so we would remember You. We honor You because You honor us.

May I call You, Father?


A spider swings in the Wind that fuels a fire that sparks a mind that thinks of you. A baby

screams in the same Wind as the heron flies. Music floats without support and finds

the place in me it should.

Blown, whispered.

May I call You Spirit Wind?

There, in the frosted breath. There, in the sigh of lovers. There, in the trembling voice of grief. There, in the infant yawn. There, in the chilled vapors of death.

May I call You Spirit Wind?


I want to build for You an altar of my heart. I want to lay upon it flowers and fruit,

wood and meat. Sheaves of wheat for bread, grapes for wine. I will offer clay

and paint and paper and quill. I will adore You for your gifts.

May I call You God?

I will worship you. Because I should. For you are my maker and source. You are

righteousness and mercy and justice and I should lay in supplication before you,

adoring you for your goodness.

May I call You God?


I will speak to You, I will be with You and You with me. Our unsure path one, mine. Our

one purpose clear, Yours. You will speak to me as a fellow journeyman and I will

accept that You know me. We will talk of fear and loneliness. Tears of injustice,

blows of intolerance, hateful words of jealousy and betrayal with come between us.

We will fight, I will hate You.

May I call you Brother?

We will reconcile, we will sing our song. We will walk together, shoulder to shoulder,

our past together, our future unknown, into a purple sun.

May I call You Brother?


I am made and loved in the forge of the womb. You are all life. You are leaves and roses;

amoeba and ram. You are my warmth and everlasting solace, You made a place for

me. You have and shall always protect and shelter me, uplift and celebrate me.

May I call You Mother?

To be so cherished from beginning to end. To know that You shaped me. To know that You

will never doubt me. To know that I am for Someone and Someone is for me. You.

The beginning of my circle.

May I call You Mother?


I know that you are Father, Spirit Wind, God, Brother and Mother. You are all and so

much more. You are Hope and Love and Humility and Grace and Joy.

May I call You Lord?

Lord? I wonder about those who see none of You.

To Whom do they give thanks?


Faith is tricky, challenging, difficult and imperative.  I am afraid we'll never teach it right to our boys.  I'll never cover all of the options, never be able to give a definitive answer, never share the fantastic palette with which they might paint their masterpiece of hope.  But we will show them that it is a direction to go, a place to dwell, a way to give thanks.

I said when I started this today that I didn't know what to do with my prayer.

Maybe, actually, I do.

There is a young woman named Paige, who, through an act of profound understanding and grace, makes herself a vessel of God's love by carrying prayers people send her up a mountain in California and burying them in box.  I was deeply moved by this.  In a note I sent her I wrote: "In that hike up the mountain, you turn a prayer into praying."

Her website is called Project Prayer Box and I sent her this prayer and I am glad for that.

I hope you don't mind too much when I get like this, but, honestly... I want the boys to know I got like this, and I probably always will.  Thanks for going with me today.

I wrote of my own hope for a place for my own prayers in this post and I wrote a bit more on prayer in this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

... in medias res ...

Two boys are splayed out on a seventies shag-like carpet of grass and dandelions and dirt - mostly dirt.  They are gently poking, investigating - memorizing even - a large, long-established ant colony at the edge of a bed surrounding old and tired Rose of Sharon bushes.  The mulch is years old and the ants have a warm, cozy home near the house, nestled in the old roots of the bushes that brush softly and fragrantly against the screen of a tired porch on a tired house on a muggy May evening.

Seconds previous to this moment a clipboard and paper had been acquired and the two curious first time entomologists are discussing the field notes they will take, wondering aloud sweetly if they should disturb the nest, how deep the queen might be and how funny and clever one particular ant seems to them.

"Have fun with ANTS!  Visit Ants."

None of these details matter, in this moment, they are focus and wonder and holiness and future - dirty-kneed, filthy-handed, Gatorade-stained messy grace.

Two heads close together, four hands on the familiar marker stained table, an open craft box, a pile of paper, a singular vision:

I am sure there is no need the explain that in the center is a pig named "Jhavou" who has just won the pig division of the Flying Pig Marathon here in The Queen City.  He is standing in front of the winged, golden trophy surrounded by his good friends and trainers Zack and Nick on what I understand is a pitcher's mound.  His first place certificate and winning check seem to be catching fire.

Again these details don't matter, and, honestly, I um, well, sorta made them up.  Not all of them... his check is on fire.  But, two boys are sharing their imagination, collaborating willingly and happily.  That don't happen overnite, years of time past and years of time to come will only tell the whole story here.  But, I sure like the middle of it.  Perfect in fact.

From the middle of a pile of schoolwork destined for the recycling bin flutters out a piece of paper.  It is a page synonyms, I'd say - front and back:

It's cute and helpful.  (The plane and plain one is my favorite.  A couple of dangling cabbages seem to make a "plain" dress "fancy.")  I have shared this sort of thing here and it stands alone just fine.  However, we are right in the middle of Nick's struggle with, and learning to use, the words he loves and savors so.  It is no secret that he doesn't always spell well, but here, did you notice, it is all correct.  Understanding that there are things to be understood is an important part of our journey and sometimes we see the first sparks of it - shaped by what was and shaping what is yet to come.  And igniting the checks of pig marathoners.

I nearly typed "my point is" which always cracks me up.  Next I considered "the point is" as if there was ever an actual point to anything.  I also considered "if I had a point it would be" which is even more laughable.  I'll just let this bit about what I might have written suffice as a transitional paragraph.

This all started when I saw the corner of this note to myself shoved up under a tottering pile of other notes and blog fodder from the boys:

"It's difficult to tell the story when you are right in the middle of it," and penciled in there is "Hope + Fear" and I am not sure what's scribbled out.  It is hard to see the whole story at times.  A story of fear may be, ultimately, a story about the importance of hope and, in the worst of stories, hope is obliterated by fear... I know that one.

For the most part I like starting and being in the middle of things.  It gives you two choices - make up a story to frame the moment or wait and find out more.  Either way is fun.

I did make one more note as I was working on this today:
You can tell the feeling in the middle of things, though.

I know the boys were happy and confident as they watched the ants do their work - as I once was when I spent that evening watching the ants of my own childhood.  I also know the exhilaration and happiness that silliness and creativity bring - and sometimes forget that I was once happier and sillier.  I have known - and I am still finding out - the deep comfort that knowing there are things to know can bring.  It is anticipation - Hope.

What's that?  No, no that is not a quote by Gary Busey.  That would be stupid... Oh, alright it is and here's what I plan to do with it.

Something that Marci did not hear in the backseat nor link to her Facebook page:

"The sun setting over the ocean makes an exclamation point in reverse."

- Gary Busey

I find it in the right spirit of things today though, and, it's one of those things you read and think, why did I never notice that, and, how on earth did Gary ...

(I actually think it's lovely.)

That's all for today.  Well, almost.  Over on the top right of my page here is a new widget.  John Kinnear at Ask Your Dad Blog installed it for me and I don't know why people are so damn nice, thanks, John.   From what I gather if you put your e-mail address in there, perform a magic trick (or decipher one of those letter thingees, which I suck at) and confirm it in your e-mail, (sigh) it will send you a message whenever I post something new here.  Facebook is limiting my reach and, frankly, many of you aren't being notified when I post something new.  Do it only if your interested, it's harmless and, well, I'd like you to keep stopping by.  Thanks for coming today, I appreciate it.

I wish I had a T-shirt with this "hair" guy on it.  I love him...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Purpose

Sometimes I do things on purpose, with purpose, purposefully.  Today I wish to speak 'On' purpose...

My,  I like that title.  You're so good a titles that don't mean a thing to anyone but yourself.

Why are you here again?

I dunno.  You claim to be in charge.  Just do whatever it was you were going to do, something spiritually, or prayerful.  Oh, I know, maybe something holier-than-thou, you seem to do that a lot these days.

Hey.  I don't mean it that way.  Give me a break.  I am trying to transition to a different place around here, a more... 

You're going to do it right now, aren't you?

Well... maybe.

You were just about to say "transcendent" weren't you?

No.  No, I was not.

Dude, I'm sitting right here. I'm in your own head.  I'm a "device," remember?  Go on...

... a more transcendent, luminous place.

Oh, good God!

I'd like to write more meaningful things.  In fact today I was going to introduce a prayer I wrote recently for a someone, anyone, everyone. 

That doesn't even make sense.  Do it some other time.  What else ya got?

What?  Wait... why? 

Look, these are cute, these pictures the boys made this morning when they got up.

Please, leave the mouse alone.  As you mentioned, I am in charge, so I will publish my prayer today.


Why the hell not!? 

Because, well, you aren't ready to.  The prayer is poorly formatted and won't translate well to this template unless you actually make an effort to fix that.  You haven't really planned an introduction for it, you don't really know what you want from it, and you gave it to someone already.  Just think about it and let's look at these images, this one of the chicken is...

That's not all, is it? 



It's showoffy.

I don't think so, I, well, I worked hard on it and I think it is pretty good for a first try and, uh...

It's.  Not.  Your.  Prayer.

You know, I find it damned offensive that you would come barging in and questioning my motives and, well, just generally pissing me off.

Stop thinking about yourself.  You use "I" a whole lot more than you should.  Remember why you started all this?  Remember the very first image that captured your heart and woke your imagination?  Do you know what the lasting value of what you are doing even is anymore?  Yes, there is room for deeper reflection here, I'll give you that, but first and foremost you have endeavored to show the boys themselves.  If a little bit of you is revealed, that's cool, but try to keep framing it all around cherishing them.  Indeed, this is nothing more than a love letter to them.  Them, not yourself...

That's sorta harsh, dude. 


You're right.  Sigh...  Where were those images?

I don't know.  I can't find them again.  If you had some sort of system for filing all these images it would be a hulluva lot easier to find things around here.  I mean you scan them and then call them something weird and file them to already stuffed folders or just throw them on the desktop and...

I'll take it from here, dude.

But, if you just had a more sensible system...

Listen, you are the device.  That is why I get to say "I" all the time.  Go away.  Oh, and you hate that word, period, word, period thing and you just did it.

You weren't listening.

Go.  Away.

When the boys woke up this morning they scurried out, found paper, and made these two, uh, warrior dudes.  I like to imagine they had a shared dream and in it their characters battled and they had a night of chivalry and conquest.  I call this a "dreamsynch."

It is not what happened.

I believe last night they were talking about these characters when they were supposed to be going to sleep and decided then that they would make them in the morning.  Let's take a look, Nick first:

This seems to be Barza "Meatalman,"  I going to just let you decide what that is supposed to mean.  I see his kind is coal and he does 500-600 Dameg (damage), his helth (I know, it really does seem a little hopeless, his spelling) is hovering right at 522.  That's good, right?  He has a badass sword and seems happy to see you.

He has a pet, Arfodgeo (there is no known translation for that, in fact, it's the first time those letters have been put in that order).  As in  "Arfodgeo, who art in heaven" which I am just sure I heard Nick say this morning as I was making lunches.  He is a mole bear cat Arthur a mouse... with "weaponry" and a skull cap.

Yes, well, moving on...

This is what Zack raced out to do this morning:

Plainly, this is Mr. Miner.  He's got a nice pickax and he is clearly in a tunnel there.  I believe in the land Mr. Miner lives in, canaries have been replaced by tribbles.  His is happy and named Bepodoo.

I have no idea what the hell is happening below there.  The rest of this is a bit harder to explain.  As best I can surmise, and after careful research, I think what we have here is a pineapple helmeted knight who, by day, is a mild-mannered miner.  His simple mining tool transforms into a multi-bladed axe of epic proportion.  His miners helmet becomes a mesh face mask and his fringed blue jeans become a killer cape.

His sidekick is an alarmed dethroned chicken school-crossing guard... in white boots.

Yep, that's what they rushed out to do this morning.  Then they tossed them aside and I picked them up off the floor.

So what about that other thing?

I told you to go away.

But aren't you forgetting something?

You told me not to use the damn prayer.  You said to do it later.  I did all that up there because you said I wasn't ready prepared enough to use the stupid thing...

I meant the backseat thingee...

Oh, well... right.  I can't seem to find a new one.

Do that one thing, where you use a strikeout of the backseat and just...

On it.

From Marci's "...things you don't expect to hear from the back seat..." Facebook page:

this is how they used to get drinks from the fountain at the park - one would climb up and the other would push the button, then they would switch  :)

Definitely a family favorite and disgustingly cute, sorry...

Perhaps soon I will find a way to share a prayer with you.  If I can get away with it.  Thanks, other one me, say goodbye to the nice people who stopped by today. 

Goodbye nice people.  He's a good guy, he just gets ahead of himself every now and then.  It's all good... 

You hate that phrase, "it's all good..." 

No I don't, you're the one that hates it.  Just hit publish, wait, I'll do it as soon as I can find it.  Oh, here

He's an idiot! 

What about the title?  Are you going to change the title?

Too late now, you already published this.

Oh, right...

He's an idiot... 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Tears Of Saint Joseph

I grow increasingly weary of trying to find an audience for my words here.  Mostly because it works against me more than for me.  I sometimes think I should not broach a subject or tell a story because I may offend the sensibilities of someone - someone I am not even sure is listening, or cares.

Trying to get around that, I find myself couching my words in ambiguity and metaphor, but, that is tiresome and weakhearted.  I find myself actually avoiding subjects and themes that may seem counter to what I imagine my readership to be.

I'm going to call myself on my own bullshit.  If I have something to say, I think I should say it.  I think God wants me to say it.  I think my future self, my children, my wife, family and friends should know what is in my heart.  I will never be a great blogger, that has become painfully obvious.  I simply do not want the kind of constant attachment and connectivity to the internet and devices that it seems to require.

However, I can, and will, write from my heart.  I can, and will, show my sons what it is like in my soul.  I can, and will, both confront and adore my God with the words that seem to spill from me - words I am tired of editing and questioning and changing and, honestly, fearing, because I am concerned that you may not like them, that they may offend you, that they may be counter to your beliefs.

Bullshit, Bill.

When I switched my church from one that said Presbyterian to one that said Catholic last year not everyone was thrilled.  I haven't talked much about that and I don't really plan on making it a regular theme here.  But, today is a feast day.  The Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.

Although, to my comic chagrin, no one asked me to choose a Saint or confirmation name, which I think is a really cool way to get in touch with holiness, I chose St. Joseph as mine.

Foregoing the thick, often impossibly complicated, theology of the Church, I'll just go with my gut.  Jesus called Joseph "Daddy."  More accurately, I guess, "Abba."

I like to imagine Joseph, Good Ole Joe.  What a job.  I mean angels in dreams, virgin birth, a savior, a prophet in your home, moving around to avoid infanticide, it almost too much to expect a man to bear.

I like to imagine Joesph tearfully watching a birth in a manger, taking in the sweetness of a newborn's scent as he held a wet wailing messiah in his arms as his dear wife rested, weary from the journey of childbirth and travel.

I like to imagine Joseph smiling as his baby son clutched his fingers and grabbed his nose.  I can see him playing peekaboo, and touching his sons hair and marveling at his fingers.

I like to imagine Joseph teaching his son to read, tracing letters in the sawdust of a woodshop; teaching his son the simple prayers a child needs to know, any son, anywhere.

I like to imagine Joseph leaning against a wall watching as his son began to work with his father's tools, imagine his joy as he watched a boy become a man.

I imagine his fear as he realized his son was not with him when he should have been, imagine him scolding his son for sitting in a synagogue questioning his teachers, imagine him smiling at the same time, knowing that his son was doing as he was to do.

I imagine Joseph working, carving wood, hoisting timber, pulling ropes with calloused hands; taking care of the work he must do, knowing others must do the work they are to do.

I imagine him sitting in a chair in his old age wistfully looking across a dusty room and remembering a son who suffered, who rose again and ascended into heaven and only being able to concentrate on the fact that he was seated in a chair made by that boy, his boy, his dear sweet son.

I like to imagine the tears of Saint Joseph as he watches my sons, your sons, all children.  I imagine him thinking, I loved a boy once, He was my son, he was a good boy.

Feeling close to Joseph makes me feel closer to God.  Circumventing the pain of the Passion, the difficult theology, the impossible hierarchy of the Church, I feel I can focus with deep emotion on the love he had for his son - on the love our Father has for me.

There is sculpture of Saint Joseph in the Day Chapel where I often go to morning Mass.  It is heavy in symbology - lilies, a cross, carnations, I think - most of which is lost on me, but, I cannot help but think, you know what, I held a baby once - two, in truth - and called him son.  There is a moment in that sculpture, the moment that is in the place where Joseph's hand is supporting the baby Jesus, a moment that draws me in, a moment that is unwavering Love.


A Prayer for St. Joseph, The Worker

Joseph, by the work of your hands
and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.
Teach me to work as you did,
with patience and perseverance, for God and
for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers
the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing
towards all.
Grant me to look upon work
with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it
my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption,
and so take pride in it.
When it is pleasant and productive,
remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome,
teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins
and the sins of the world.

(Note: This prayer was taken from the booklet “Devotions to Saint Joseph” by Brian Moore, S.J., printed and published by the Society of St. Paul.)

Thank you letting me share this with you today, it means a lot to me.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

*after a thunder clap*

"Big Daddy's burping."

Yep, and it was a good one, I wonder if He can do the alphabet...