Monday, June 30, 2014

Fourth of July: Little Egg Harbor, NJ

(The F. Scott Fitzgerald Model home
Little Egg Harbor, NJ)

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

   -Ulysses , Alfred,  Lord Tennyson  

“Everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City”
    - Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen

“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

Fot most of the forty-year Bloomsday passage
On this side of paradise,
The two of them had
Rockawayed the days and nights.
Wondering if the green light at West Egg was real
They were “simultaneously enchanted and repelled
by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
That ancient aging ticking clock
And tattered calendar indicated
That time finally had arrived.
They sang together
“Everything dies baby that’s a fact,
Everything that dies someday comes back.”
Unlike Alice who didn’t care much what path to follow
These wanderers launched out again-
They  “beat on, boats against the current.”
The baggage they carried
Was heavy, rich and not a burden.
Multiple graces and so many friendly faces
Find favor in their memories.
Whyte’s journey prayer echoes
 On their passage to hope
“You are not leaving but arriving.”
And a sign strategically placed
By some greater hand
Calms the ambiguous sea,
“Heaven is a little closer
in a home
by the water.”
The first one said softly
“The aurora is rising
behind us.”
The second one said
“Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”
It was their Independence Day.  *

(* Thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Boss, Lewis Carroll, David Whyte and of course Joyce and FS Fitzgerald for the inspiration)

So much to say …. My own words inadequate ....I will let the songs below do the talking…. Enjoy!

Smart phones click the link if you don’t see the music videos on your page.

 One of these Days – Neil Young

 These are the days – Van Morrison
Rockaway the Days – Bruce Springsteen
 Cousin Caterpillar – The Incredible String Band

Watching the wheels – John Lennon

 Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
Fourth of July Asbury Park – Bruce Springsteen

Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

Wishing blessings to my Jersey Girls, family, friends and neighbors ….

Always Grateful,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Inadequate Gratitude

"At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done." ( Thomas A’ Kempis , The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 3.)

How does one say farewell to trusted friends who have been with you every step of the journey so far?
How can one express gratitude for the inspiration, the comfort, the illumination, grace and mentoring these companions have provided?
Is it important that others are aware of the significant impact of the ideas and insights that these compadres provided?

All that has resided in the cluttered attic can’t continue on the passage to the next chapter. It feels like Sophie’s choice. It is unfair to choose.Anger swells against the pilgrim partner who insists that there is no room for many of the friends.

Advances in technology and the prospect of collecting a digital compendium are not the same and an unsatisfactory solution.There is something to be said about touch and physically grasping, if not caressing gently, the confidantes and mentors. Just knowing that they are at an arms length is comforting.

“Not to decide is to decide”

But the moment of reckoning occurs and reality wins where only a few will join the pilgrim onward. A divine breath speaks silently of a somewhat solemn solution …some poetry, some novels, some educational texts, some sacred tomes, some historical records…. and so it goes. Refusing to say “goodbye” to those left behind this reflection then will be a humble “thank you” to each one.  Also, let it be known that each one…yes, each one. …these sacred gifts ….every page…every word…every idea…every concept will remain as an integral part of burning flame in this heart.

I will never forget. I will try to find a way to honor  the words... of the poets, the authors, storytellers, spiritual masters, saints and  inspirational teachers .... and how they have blessed me.


Friday, May 2, 2014


There was that day when she stood
 Waiting and welcoming
Glowing radiantly in the rays of the midday sun.
Trees stood in their full color guarding
The pathway to her heart.
It was as if she knew that the time as perfect.
She was the treasure the pilgrims had sought.
Mature but not tired,
Proud but not overbearing.
A flight of birds burst in formation
To exploding out into all directions,
Mother nature’s feathered fireworks

Days, became weeks, weeks months and months years.
The birds and their songs never departed.
In the dark soul of night she was honored by the sounds of
The crickets’ celestial chorus accompanied by
The sound of rustling leaves slowly
Shaken by the breath of God.
Her purpose was to be the perpetual peace-giver.
She would be more than a sanctuary
Island in the stream.
Gilbranesque filled photo albums record remembering
Moveable feasts of joyful gatherings and celebrations:
Baptisms, birthdays, Christmases and Easters
With friends and family!
Canine companions freely frolicked frequently with her.
In times of grieving she was a source of
Mystical silent prayers of solace
And comfort for the tears.
Always strong she stood her ground and sheltered her clan
From the frozen winters, sweltering summers
And the storms of all seasons and sources.
When they were tired she provided a safe haven
From the busy-ness and strain of the world.
All souls felt safe with her and would dream in comfort.
She was, no, she is sacred ground.
One pilgrim would lovingly anoint her honoring her with flowers
While the other would assure that music
Continuously sanctified this temple.
Those gathered with her flourished.
But truth and complete love can be found in letting go.
The pilgrims’ first then their second would say farewell
Launching out on their own journeys to find out.
She would always be there when and if they would feel
A burning desire to feel that unconditional love again.
A wise prophetess she seemed to know
Her work here too would come to an end.
A time would soon arrive when the original pilgrims
Would pass solemnly through
Her door of salvation one final time.
There will be no “goodbyes” just gratitude
Knowing they could return to her in their hearts.
If perchance you visit her lend an ear and listen carefully,
You can hear the pilgrims’ spirits
Living within her forever.


 Our House – C, S, N and Y
(Smart Phone click Link)

  Home …David Byrne 
(Smart phones click the link)


Thursday, April 3, 2014

An April Fool Reflection : The Contented Fisherman

The Story of the Contented Fisherman:
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the industrialist.
"Because I have caught enough fish for the day," said the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch more?"
"What would I do with it?"
"You can earn more money" was the reply. "With that you can have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats... maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."
"What would I do then?"
"Then you can really enjoy life."
"What do you think I'm doing right now?"

-       Anthony DeMello SJ

Passing through the door leading into the next season the pilgrim sailor wondered about the progress, if any, that he may have made along his journey. He realized how he easily got lost . One can get lost along the way especially when he is distracted by state of his attachments to things and people and worrying about the pieces he can’t control.

“What have I learned?”, he reflected .

He thought about those aspects of his existence that he truly loved…his girls, his friends, the mentors, the people and places and experiences that filled him with joy. He thought of all of nature  - especially the majesty of dawns and sunsets and birds singing freely and the sea. Then he recalled the poems (…yes, the poems) and the books and music that comforted, inspired and continue to fill him up.

He is glad that he no longer fights the battle to fill his silos.  Sometimes he tries too hard to be authentic. Sometimes he realizes that being human is imperfection. Sometimes he is attentive to bringing a little smile to those in pain or those who are alone. Sometimes he just finds himself lost in being mindful of the present, the divinity of all things, and the wonder-filling grace. Sometimes he is aware of the fact that he just needs to let it all go and just be.

April is national Poetry Month

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
-       Dead Poets Society

“The Gate of Heaven is everywhere”
-       Thomas Merton

"True spirituality is not a search for perfection or control or the door to the next world; it is a search for divine union now. The great discovery is always that what we are searching for has already been given! I did not find it; it found me. “
-       Richard Rohr, The Naked Now

The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light "
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal - a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I'm not needed
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

                                -       Mary Oliver

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes

- Stanley Kunitz

                                   April 15, 2013 Boston Strong …Remember!
     - and keep all those who were killed or injured and their family and friends in your prayers.
                                             (click link if not viewed on smart phone)



Monday, March 3, 2014

A Winter Metanoia

Does it seem like some days you are in a never ending dream trekking through some dark gray Paul Simon-like winter’s day -  over and over and over? Books and poetry begin to lose their comfort. Desolate Chicago blues tunes are the common acceptable choice to play on your winter weary home stereo. The dog,who normally delights in brisk walks, hesitates as his senses warn him of the frigid consequence of stepping through the door.

Television broadcasts of golf tournaments in summer-like climates are no longer watchable as viewers sink into deeper doldrums. Local liquor entrepreneurs promote and delight in the increasing of bourbon and wine sales. A news story of how a husband and wife who took turns at using their 12 gauge shotgun on their state of the art flat screen when a 24 hour ice skating marathon was broadcast are seen as local heroes. Meteorologists hide as they are officially persona non grata everywhere. Congress, in its half-hearted attempt at across the aisle collaboration is said to consider legislation to either shoot the messengers of bad weather or to ban winter forever. Baseball spring training games are considered as a cruel tease. Children urge escapes to the home of Mickey Mouse while their parents secretly plan for a midnight getaway to Hemingway’s retreat at Key West . A nasty rumor leaks out that the Pope is preparing an encyclical that God has stopped listening to many in certain sections of the world and that “arctic vortexes” will become the new norm. There is no new Noah to facilitate escape. Hope wanes.

They say the next snowstorm will not be as bad as the last one. They say that it is better to fill the tubs with water just in case the power lines come down due to the weighted ice. They say the children no longer delight in the “snow days off” as they will need to make up the time instead of a spring break. They say the retailers have raised the prices of coats, hats, scarves and gloves. They say the municipalities have used up their budgets for snow plowing, sanding and salting. They say get your provisions before the roads freeze. They say, “you are on your own!”

Without warning something happens as pieces mystically fall into place.  A not–a care-in-the-world giggling gaggle of cherubs pulling sleds and ice skates saunter off to the hills and pond past your window.  The white blanket suddenly seems to purify the once dark dismal landscape. A starling’s soft soothing song sweetens the chilled air. The chimes respond gently to the frosty divine sourced breeze. The late owl’s call continues to query you and you no longer hesitate to answer.  A last minute almost impromptu family reunion fills your home with unconditional joy and love. All this is then capped off at your birthday dinner with your family as you celebrate the now with one breath and in gratitude realize that warmth and spring is ever present … within. The heart’s voice whispers “Wishes do come true and everything is good."

The Winter of Listening

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

~ David Whyte ~

Shoveling Snow with Buddha
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Below is link to audio Version of the above poem

and some apropos favorites from a favorite...a common birthday mate of sorts...George Harrison
If you don't see the video on your smart phone try the link or your PC

                                         The next two are from the Concert for George



Friday, January 31, 2014

It was 50 years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play ....Plus

The slowly balding wrinkling tired pilgrim gathered his now adult children, the dogs and anyone who was gracious, had enough wine or saintly patience to listen to his story one more time.

“Well it was 50 years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. Back when I was in England in ’61 something was happening…”

“Please, you were going to tell us about the time the Beatles saved your life,” answered an anxious voice from the back of the gathering and it added “ you can tell us about those related episodes at another time, ok?”

“What? Oh yeah. Well anyway back in ’62-‘63 or so my cousin I met in London was sending me letters from there about a new rock band that was shaking up more than the music scene in England. Girls were screaming and fainting while tossing panties onto the stage at the band’s performances. I needed to hear this music for myself since this band had not yet received radio play in the states. In response to my pleas   my cousin started sending me forty-fives from England.”

“Forty-fives? “ that same questioning voice in back interrupted.

“Oh yeah…these were small black vinyl discs with one or two songs on each side that were played at 45 revolutions per minute on a turntable”

“A turn ---- what?”

“Never mind. My cousin sent me these discs almost weekly. It seemed as though this band was recording more songs than the typical performers recorded in a lifetime. By this time word was starting to spread in the U.S. about this band called The Beatles. Did I tell you how they actually created their name as a homage to Buddy Holly and the Crickets?”

“Yeh, ya did dad, and you have told us how Buddy Holly was your first rock n roll hero and how you were depressed when Holly died tragically. Just tell us how The Beatles save you.”

“ Ok, Ok. You see the word got around that I had these 45’s from England and no one in the area or even in the state had these records or had heard these songs on the radio. So, I started to bring these records as I got them to the local music store. These discs were as if they were gifts from an unseen god.  That store was sort of the church of anyone who was interested in contemporary music. My friends would be my bodyguards and co-disciples of sorts as we bicycled our way through once quiet suburban streets to the small center of town that was lost in a previous time. Everything was about to change and only a select few under the age of fifteen were aware that something was in the air. There at this center of this sacred store a crowd of girls and boys waited outside and cheered and screamed as if I were one of the Beatles they come to baptize the believers. As I entered this sanctuary my friends cleared a path to the main counter where the manager stood with his turntable ready to play the new record. Reverential silence took over those gathered to hear the words as girls reached through the crowd to touch the holy grails, I mean records. I felt like a combination of John the Baptist with Buddy Holly’s spirit carrying me each step. The voice in wilderness had come home. It was the first time in my life where others seemed to have some interest in me. I knew it was interest in and admiration for the Beatles and their music, but I didn’t care. I think that is where for the first time girl asked me out on a date and she didn’t even mention the Beatles or bringing any of the records. I brought a couple of 45’s along on that date just in case. “

A voice for the group chimed as if to bring this story to closure” So, this is how the Beatles saved your life?”

The pilgrim slowly smiled saying,“ Hold on there this was just the beginning.”

He continued and he knew he had to talk fast.

“One Friday night around that same period a small group of these disciples and I gathered at a friend’s house that January as it was rumored that the Jack Paar TV program was going to have the Beatles on his show.”

“Who, What?” that same voice queried. The old pilgrim looked around and no one was checking or sending texts on their smart phones yet so he quickly jumped back to the story before he would lose them.

“ Well, though the broadcast was just a filmed performance of The Beatles somewhere in England there was some satisfaction. I had thought ‘ I was right! There is something special about these guys’ and suddenly I and the small collection of disciples desired more. It was then announced that on February 9, just weeks away, that the Beatles would perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show. I know. I know. You were going to ask ‘who is Ed Sullivan?’ let’s just say if a performer made it to his live show you had made it to the high mass of recognition in the entertainment industry.

More of the Beatles’ records were now being played on the radio ten, twenty, thirty times a day. No one seemed to get enough of them. Some of their recordings played I didn’t have. My importance and popularity as the keeper of the Beatles’ flame in out little town faded fast. I regained some of that attention when my cousin sent me a signed poster of the Fab Four for their Command Performance at the Palladium in London. No one cared if the signatures on the poster were real, replications or plain ole forgeries! No one had seen such a full four-foot colored iconic poster of the Beatles. My co-Beatle fanatic friend, David, encouraged me to find a bank vault for the records and poster. My folk music friend, Matt, gave that smirky smile singing ‘The times they are a changing.’

Before we knew it that Sunday of infamy arrived. It was the day of truth, true revelation, the day of the Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles. It was like Christmas Eve all day as the time wouldn’t go fast enough. I hoped that someone would decide to broadcast the show earlier than planned to avoid riots in the streets and masses of teens dying of heart attacks or suicide! But I had to hold my breath a little longer as the show would go on as planned. Readying myself for the anticipated sacramental experience I retreated into the bathroom earlier in the day and combed my hair down to lie across my forehead in Beatlesque mop top style welcoming the troubadours into my home through that magical mystery of technology called a television. My dad just laughed. My younger brother followed my lead and my sister said wasn’t sure about what was about to happen but the found the excitement contagious. And then, then it happened….

The Beatles played five songs at different spots in the program and from the first note of the first song my heart pounded harder and faster than it has ever done before. My inner self was screaming in silence with the girls in the live studio audience. A new chord had been struck. A flame that I thought was out was not just rekindled but it exploded into a bonfire. When the TV screen showed personal facts about each Beatle as they appeared on the magical screen the camera panned on to the lead guitarist, George Harrison. The words I saw are burned in my memory forever that he and I had the same birth date, February 25.  I felt as if it was karma, speaking directly to me… and it was, it was …it is difficult to explain. When I saw my friend David at school the next morning we could see the same fire in each other’s eyes. It was just the beginning.”

One of his children who had been politely listening to this half fable said, “Is that it? When are the Beatles going to save you? Didn’t you and your friend David see them in concert at Shea Stadium? “

He smiled and said “ Yeh, we saw them at Shea but that was later “

“But what was all the excitement about and when did they save you?”

A little exasperated but smiling the pilgrim said “Ok, but it would be a much longer story to discuss the significance of the cultural and societal shift these young men had…. on music, the new types of lyrics… by the way they would end up using the word ‘love’ 613 times in their songs over their career together …social attitudes and values shifted and.”

One daughter abruptly interrupted, “Please no! Can you just explain in a few words to us what it was all about and how they saved you?”

He smiled again and added, “ I guess it is ineffable. I guess you had to be there. Maybe they just woke up dormant spirit in me…and were channels to bringing light and joy to life."

( Sometimes the videos don't appear on smart phones...try clicking on the link)

Other live performance

This is for David who said he didn’t hear a note when we saw them at Shea in ’65.


One More thing....

What will your verse be? What is your true voice?

A recent powerfully imaged television ad for the new Apple iPad Air uses a voice over from one of my favorite scenes in a favorite movie of mine, The Dead Poets Society. It also helped me recall a favorite poem of mine by Mary Oliver. Each of these fuels the flame of my love for poetry and helps me remember why I love poetry - while revisiting the question “ Have I been or am I authentic enough and have I contributed a verse to this powerful play?”

The original scene

The new iPad Air

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Autumn Poem

In the last jovial, clear-sky days of autumn
the mockingbird
in his monk-gray coat
and his arrowy wings
from the hedge to the top of the pine
and begins to sing — but it's neither loose, nor lilting, nor lovely —
it's more like whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges.
All birds are birds of heaven
but this one, especially, adores the earth so well
he would imitate, for half the day and on into the
its ticks and wheezings,
and so I have to wait a long time
for the soft, true voice
of his own glossy life
to come through,
and of course I do.
I don't know what it is that makes him, finally, look
to the sweet spring of himself, that mirror of heaven,
but when it happens —
when he lifts his head
and the feathers of his throat tremble,
and he begins, like Saint Francis,
little flutterings and leapings from the pine's forelock,
resettling his strong feet each time among the branches,
I am recalled,
from so many wrong paths I can't count them,
simply to stand, and listen.
All my life I have lived in a kind of haste and darkness
of desire, ambition, accomplishment.
Now the bird is singing, but not anymore of this world.
And something inside myself is fluttering and leaping, is
to type it down, in lumped-up language,
in outcry, in patience, in music, in a snow-white book.

             - Mary Oliver