"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

25 March 2011

Congratulations to our Newly Graduated Sailor

From playing in the water way
back when to the Navy today . . .


21 March 2011


I've probably posted this quotation before, from Richard John Neuhaus's meditation Death on a Friday Afternoon:

"The only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity."

I'm re-reading the book, as I try to do each Lent (though I don't always manage to complete it, in part because it is so rich), and this quote has captured me every time. I tend, as an academic, to see complexity everywhere; my world, by definition, is complex.

Of course, this bleeds over into the rest of life as well, including the spiritual. When I first was found by the Saviour, life seemed suddenly remarkably simple; love washed over me, I knew Truth, everything seemed clear as a summer noon. It was a time I needed, a time that somehow gave me the grounding, the reality that I required after years of terror in the face of my lostness and the brokenness of the world I was lost inside.

But time passes and life happens, and nothing remains as simple as it first seems. And now I feel awash in complexities -- not doubts of any foundational thing, but questions and mysteries, wonderments and ambiguities, uncertainties and, every day it seems, a new paradox to contemplate.

And yet, at the same time, I keep returning to this:

My father, when he had trouble remembering the years in which he had raised me, remembered without fail two things -- the prayer he always recited at meals, and the song he taught me when I was a child: "Jesus loves me, this I know / for the Bible tells me so." For a time when those dark months began, he felt fear, he forgot that he could trust the God he had walked with. And then, on the far side of fear, on the far side of doubt -- the simplicity of childhood, the simplicity of faith.

The complexity of my thinking is a good thing, it is even necessary; but I hope its greatest gift is the simplicity on its other side. I would be content if the last thing I remember would be that song of simple faith my father taught me, the song of faith in the Son of the Father we share, which we sang to our children again and again, which they sing to theirs.

19 March 2011


This is the closest the moon has been to the earth in 18 years, and the closest it ever gets -- called a supermoon. We stood on the porch and watched it rising behind the clouds, astounding beauty in the night sky. The world seems to be going up in flames, but we can't destroy God's creation, no matter how hard we seem to try . . . I am reminded again of Gerard Manley Hopkins:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

16 March 2011


I left a few minutes early to go to my first class this morning, the sky grey from clouds and Daylight Savings. Starting down from third floor, I felt the world spin around me as I almost lost my footing . . . not the way I wanted to confirm that indeed I cannot walk down a flight of stairs with my bifocals on. Thankfully, I caught my balance on the brass railing, then removed my glasses and continued carefully. At the landing between third and second, still moving slowly in the half-fog of unglassed sight, I found myself eye-to-eye with a mockingbird.

I wasn’t sure for a moment that’s what he was. He sat perched on the outside ledge of the picture window, looking straight at me. I’ve seen so many doves and pigeons lately, I thought at first that’s what he was — but then I realized his grey was a little smoother and deeper, his inquisitive look a little more sophisticated, and I saw his wings and that hint of white at their tips. We stared at each other for at least ten seconds as I slowly put my glasses back on.

I wonder what he saw, how he processed it — colors, size, movement? Did he see my eyes and look into them, as he seemed to? He gazed attentively, moving his head just slightly to get different angles. I moved closer, to see how long he would stay, and I nearly reached the window before he decided a threat loomed on the other side of the glass. The white on his wings and tail as he spread them in flight blazed out like the sun in the grey world.

He didn’t go far, lighting on a floodlight jutting up from the rooftop, to illuminate the building’s crenellated entrance at night, and he turned back to check out the catalyst for his flight. Would the threat follow, did he need to fly a little further? I stayed still and we assessed each other again for a time.

Just as I was thinking that I needed to go on, another flash of white and grey swooped in toward him and a tangle of feathers struck the air as they fought over the coveted vantage point. My mockingbird won, and the other fled, to be attacked by still a third; those two drew a truce and landed together a few feet away on a skylight above the cafeteria.

My mockingbird turned his head from me to his rivals and back again, alert for danger from all sides; the other two went about their business, preening themselves, hunting for insect tidbits. I turned away to go about my own business, assessing the threats facing my day, pushing my hair out of my eyes, grateful for the tidbits of joy that keep framing my days.


12 March 2011

"Lit Instructor"

I ran across this lovely poem by William Stafford in Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach:

"Lit Instructor"

Day after day up there beating my wings

with all the softness truth requires

I feel them shrug whenever I pause:

they class my voice among tentative things,

And they credit fact, force, battering.

I dance my way toward the family of knowing,

embracing stray error as a long-lost boy

and bringing him home with my fluttering.

Every quick feather asserts a just claim;

it bites like a saw into white pine.

I communicate right; but explain to the dean--

well, Right has a long and intricate name.

And the saying of it is a lonely thing.

--from American Poems

01 March 2011

Crescent Moon

I've been feeling sad and out of sorts, irritable, with circumstances and physical pain weighing me down. I'm tired of it all; I just want to curl up under the covers and sleep the rest of my life away. But one can't, and so I got up early, as I usually must on Tuesdays, feeling sorry for myself, and prepared for my day.

Then I turned from the driveway into the street to be greeted by a crescent moon brilliant before me in the blue-black dawn, the morning star saluting her from above and to her right, the mountains below them barely tinged with delicate pink.

The vision repeated itself as I drove up the hill to work and then I found it again, framed in the bare branches of the tree rising above the student center.

How you feel is not important. Be like the moon: be where you are meant to be and let the sun pour out its light for you to catch his rays and reflect them where and how he directs.

Joy entered my day and I hope shone at least a crescent's worth of light into the world despite how I felt.